Fatal Ascent

There is a new book out which has a Space Elevator as a central theme.  The title is Fatal Ascent and the author is Mr. Gordon McKinzie.  I’ve just recently learned that Gordon was supposed to be at the recent Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, but a sudden and severe medical issue prevented him from attending.  He does live in the area and so we can hope to see Gordon at the next Conference.

From the advert:

Near a remote scientific facility on the equator north of Tahiti, a small plane suddenly spins out of control and crashes. Only the scientists of Space Grid International at the secret atoll know what has happened: The plane has collided with thin carbon tapes that have been stretched taut from the atoll’s coral shelf to a point 62,000 miles into space. Conceived in absolute secrecy, the tapes are the critical element of the world’s first functioning space elevator that can transport men and materials to and from satellites without the prohibitive cost and logistics of rocket launches. Shortly afterwards, investigators from the National Transportation and Safety Board visit the facility looking for answers, but are too close to discovering the true cause of the crash and the atoll’s secret. Soon after their chartered aircraft leaves the facility it suddenly explodes in mid-air.

One of the team’s members, Michelle Kahana, shares a critical piece of information with her brother, Scott, just before she and her team depart the facility on their fateful flight. Scott, a promising Honolulu architect and F-16 pilot in the Hawaii Air National Guard, begins pursuing the details of Michelle’s disclosure only to uncover a trail of betrayal, deception and murder that implicates the FAA and the facility’s brilliant Research Director, Dr. Krishnamurty Karemcheti.

Karemcheti has recently been given a “no confidence” vote by the Board of Space Grid International. He has no use for the altruistic vision of CEO Mark Darden, who wants to deploy the revolutionary Ladder to Space as a means to connect the planet to space-borne solar energy “farms” that could ultimately supply all of the world’s energy needs.  Karemcheti, however, is intent only on selling the technology to a Chinese syndicate that would use the concept for military purposes to hold nations of the world hostage, and is already overseeing the construction of an identical facility in the South China Sea. The disenfranchised Karemcheti wants to completely eliminate Space Grid International and its core of scientists and executives, and has conceived a diabolical plan that has been in motion for many months: A rogue Chinese trawler has captured a Pakistani midget submarine in the Arabian Sea and clandestinely transported it over ten thousand miles to the doorstep of the tiny scientific facility.  The mission of the submarine Nishtar is too horrifying to contemplate—it carries two full-size torpedoes!

Months earlier, Karemcheti had imposed on Shakeela Kabir, a beautiful American-born woman of Indian ancestry and daughter of an old family friend, to befriend a FAA staff specialist and persuade him to illegally alter government records that would guarantee absolute secrecy of the Ladder to Space project. Scott’s personal quest for information leads him to the FAA and a confrontation with the object of Shakeela’s intercession, Kyle Broderick. In a panic, the young engineer nervously confesses to his benefactor Karemcheti that he fears his role in subverting FAA regulations will be discovered. Shortly afterward, Broderick is killed in his sleep when his small ketch mysteriously explodes in a marina near Annapolis.  When Scott first learns of Shakeela’s involvement with Karemcheti, he is immediately distrustful and finds himself obliquely linking her to the horrific series of events. Abruptly, the anguished young woman travels to Honolulu and personally convinces Scott of her innocence in the tragic circumstances that have darkened their lives. The melding of their mutual desire to bring Karemcheti to justice leads to a poignant love affair that blossoms in the face of terrible adversity for Shakeela and deep emotional scars for Scott.

The FBI joins forces with the NTSB and moves quickly to find answers, some of which are found at the bottom of the South Pacific in a tape recorder recovered by a deep-diving submersible. Special Agent Victor Savage is convinced that Karemcheti can now be linked to at least nine deaths, only to discover that the scientist has left the country and all contact has been lost.

Soon the trawler and submarine are within striking distance of the facility, and Karemcheti re-appears with his iniquitous Chinese partners to launch his final act of treachery.  He gives orders for the submarine to fire its first torpedo into the heart of the research facility.  The second torpedo is reserved for the cruise ship Polynesian Princess anchored nearby—it has top government officials and members of the press onboard who have been invited to the public unveiling of the SGI elevator as it clamps onto the tape and begins its incredible odyssey into space. Shakeela is also on the cruise ship, ironically as a guest of Karemcheti, and Scott is one thousand miles to the south on a National Guard deployment with his F-16 squadron.

The inhabitants of the research facility and the cruise ship are defenseless against the massive torpedoes poised to execute their deadly trajectories. In a race against time, only heroic actions can deflect the momentum of the destructive forces about to be unleashed against them– if it isn’t already too late.

I’m supposed to be receiving my copy of the book any day now and it’s going to go to the top of my Fiction reading list.  I’ll post a book review when I’m finished.  In the meantime, you can get the book at Amazon (but not yet on Kindle – at least I’m hoping that it will soon be available on Kindle).