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The Return Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 2001


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (July 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081257060X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812570601
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,264,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Old-school moonwalker Buzz Aldrin teams up again with former Hugo and Nebula Awards nominee John Barnes to pen another near-future SF tale focused on the fate of the U.S. space program. But as with the duo's previous effort, 1996's Encounter with Tiber, Aldrin's ideas can take center stage a little too conspicuously, which, regardless of your own views on the subject, doesn't always make for the best story. Part thriller, part infomercial for the Aldrin space manifesto, The Return fumbles only in its lack of subtlety: The book's protagonist, Scott Blackstone, is a technically accomplished and charismatic retired astronaut who runs a foundation called ShareSpace, whose mission is to send everyday citizens into outer space. And what do you know--in real life Aldrin is a technically accomplished and charismatic retired astronaut who runs a foundation called ShareSpace, whose mission is to send everyday citizens into outer space. (Talk about your expert author.)

Of course you read Aldrin not because you think he's the next Ben Bova but because he's a space-race winner, a bright man with inspiring ideas. And Barnes, who's already proven himself with topnotch titles like Mother of Storms, helps Aldrin get his point across admirably, spinning a tale that begins with ShareSpace's third Citizen Observer to accompany a space shuttle mission: a legendary, recently retired basketball hero known around the globe as simply "MJ." Disaster strikes, though, while the beloved MJ is airborne, and Blackstone soon finds himself relying on his lawyer ex-wife to come to ShareSpace's defense. Was the disaster an accident? Don't count on it. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Reunited with award-winning SF writer Barnes (Encounter with Tiber), Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, imagines a near future when the space program is in the hands of competing private corporations. In association with ShareSpace, headed by ex-astronaut CEO Scott Blackstone, NASA is offering privileged civilians the opportunity to ride as "Citizen Observers" on space shuttle missions. The third such celebrity in space, basketball legend MJ (Michael James), has scarcely reached orbit when he and a crew member are killed in what appears to be a bizarre accident. Culminating in an emergency crash landing on Easter Island, this tragedy puts the future of the entire space program in jeopardy. Overnight, Blackstone becomes the scapegoat and--sued by MJ's mother for over $1 billion--is fired. When, mysteriously, Blackstone finds that no lawyer will take his case, his brother, Nick, v-p of rocket builder Republic Wright, revives the childhood bond of the Mars Four (Nick; Scott; Scott's ex-wife, celebrity attorney Thalia, mother of their 10-year-old son; and Eddie Killeret, Nick's counterpart at rival Curtiss Aerospace)--and persuades Thalia to represent Scott. Despite anonymous threats, the case turns in their favor when the media focus on the explosion of a Pakistani proton bomb that turns the entire ionosphere into a super Van Allen belt, knocking out all existing satellites. Enter an enigmatic figure from a secret agency tying everything to a Chinese conspiracy. After three of the Mars Four go into space on a mission to rescue the crew of a disabled space station, fade to sunset as they reunite at the beach cottage of their youth. In made-for-Disney prose, this facile effort makes a fast read. $150,000 marketing campaign; 20-city author tour. (May) FYI: Aldrin is the head of a foundation called ShareSpace, which advocates civilian space travel.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Erich Landstrom on May 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
THE RETURN covers techno thriller territory familiar for readers of ENCOUNTER WITH TIBER. Many of the same elements are in both hard science-fiction novels: a family involved for generations in spaceflight, a divorced couple driven apart by the demands of aeronautics, a disaster aboard an American space shuttle, an emergency on an orbiting outpost, bad guy communists. Some ideas are identical: realistic rocketry, an evaluation and projection of the next decade of manned exploration, ShareSpace as a advocate for civilian space travel, the struggle for the soul of the space program. Some plot devices are new: a courtroom drama, an international nuclear incident, and covert operations. The result is something of a storytelling salad - a little of everything is thrown into the bowl, and it's all good for you. After a slow start, RETURN becomes a quick, exciting read, with technical details explained in simple terms and characters given human dimensions.
But unlike TIBER, which literally spanned time and space in first person narratives, Return follows a more constrained literary approach. Only three narrators are used, childhood friends who have drifted apart and reunite as adults. As a result the overall scope of RETURN is less grand than TIBER, but certainly more readable. Aldrin is at his best with the details of the space exploration business, with the lift capabilities, PR coups, long hours, and exhilaration and exhaustion. Barnes does an outstanding job in taking Aldrin's space strategies and spinning them into the story, around the high cost of machines and the higher costs to men and women as marriages fail and friendships are sacrificed.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dolores Washburn on May 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The first chapter of this book is AWFUL: a press conference with a smug first-person narrator just cramming back story down our throats. But it really does pick up after that, although I wasn't the least sorry to see one insufferably perfect character die in chapter two. After that, though, it really does get moving nicely, and by the end you do share Aldrin's enthusiasm for getting us back into space. As I said, a slow start but ultimately a worthwhile book --- and perhaps the most beautiful book I've seen in a while, with a transluscent dustjacket overtop of a glossy hard cover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter LaPrade on November 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The Return', the second colaboration between John Barnes and Buzz Aldrin doesn't quite work as well as the first. This one is more of a thriller than a sci-fi book. In this book, a former astronaut named Scott Blackstone heads up a company trying to make space more accessable to everyone. He sends up a celebrity named Michael James, who is really a Jordan with a name change and a height change. James is killed by a freak accident, or so everyone thinks. Back on earth, Scott is sued by the family of the basketball star, and he ends up being defended by his ex-wife, who is the only one willing to take up his case. Meanwhile, his brother tries to finish a new type of rocket that doesn't need those detachable boosters. Soon, they all find themselves in the midst of an international plot, as a powerful nuclear bomb is set off in the atmosphere, and it is up to the Blackstones to rescue some astronauts stranded in the I.S.S(International Space Station). O.K read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By orbops on June 20, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This story from Buzz Aldrin reads almost like an alternate US space history - one in which the government allowed private business to take up the space tourist business. What makes this story a little more poignant is that the space shuttle Columbia places a significant role in the story. The pace keeps the reader flipping from page to page, and the storyline makes you want to believe that this type of R&D is really happening in the private sector. My only gripe is that Aldrin could have been a little more creative in creating one of the main civilian characters instead of simply using a caricature of Michael Jordan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Brady on December 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's a shame - the authors have a great SF drama here, solidly based in hard science. This story could have happened, and the insight that Mr. Aldrin has into the aerospace field really shines here.

As a fan of John Barnes' work, I was expecting better writing, though. The characters all have the same voice, and it's coming from behind a cardboard cutout - a reader, presented with a couple of paragraphs of the narrative that don't show detail of the characters situation will not be able to tell which of the three first-person characters is being presented - and will have a difficult time really caring.

It's worth a read - it is, after all, a good tale, and particularly interesting to the people for whom the space program's failure to launch is distressing. But people who have read Mother of Storms by John Barnes should be warned that the characters do not become people here. The central characters remain monotone cardboard cutouts, and the secondary characters show even less personality. Mr. Aldrin's expertise shines here - Mr. Barnes' does not.

I'd hoped for better - perhaps a flaw in my expectations. I've read considerably worse, though - keep your expectations down, and look past the flaws, and you'll not regret that you picked this one up.
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