K.A. Bedford,
Orbital Burn
(Edge, 2004)

What happens when you combine science fiction, mystery, a dead woman, a talking dog and the end of the world? You get K.A. Bedford's Orbital Burn.

When Louise "Lou" Meagher woke up after her transition from living person to animated corpse, she made her way to the planet Kestrel where she established a reputation as an unlicensed private investigator among the Kestrel Dead. Like the rest of the Dead, Lou is a victim of a necrosis nanovirus and is technically dead, being kept "alive" by millions of nanobots that repair and renew her dead tissues. The only problem is that the "tink" doesn't last forever and Lou really needs to have hers refreshed.

Unfortunately for Lou and the rest of Kestrel, the Bloody Bastard, an asteroid the size of Mars, is due to plow into Kestrel next week. Everyone is being evacuated from the planet's surface to the expensive space station orbiting Kestrel, which will itself be moving away from the planet soon to avoid any debris. With nothing to do until it's her turn for evacuation, Lou takes on one last client, a talking dog named Dog who wants her to find his boy.

Orbital Burn is a very entertaining book with one of the best opening lines I've read in a long time: One morning, not long before the end of the world, a dead woman named Lou sat drinking espresso in Sheb's Old Earth Diner, one of the few places still open in the cheap part of Stalktown. It's not one of those sci-fi books that dumps you into the author's invented world and leaves you to flounder in a sea of unpronounceable invented words and concepts. Instead, Lou's life is fairly self-explanatory and what the reader might not be able to figure out is explained.

Lou, despite her rather unappetizing condition, is an engaging character; an underdog (so to speak) to root for. Dog is a delight; a cybernetically enhanced beagle, who even though he talks and seems to have a psychic link to Kid (his boy), still acts like a dog -- embarrassing Lou by licking himself in public, for instance.

Orbital Burn is a page-turner, no doubt about it. It appears to be a stand-alone novel, but I could really wish for a sequel that relates Lou's further adventures.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 5 February 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.