I've read all of Syne Mitchell's works, from her fascinating family-in-space drama, Murphy's Gambit to Technogenisis, which will make me look askance at the internet for the rest of my life, and The Changeling Plague, which made me worry about all the genetic research being done here and in other countries, and ultra-wealthy men who have money and power, and will do anything to expand their lifespan. Now that Syne is a mother (Kai, her son, is a toddler already), she's crafted a dramatic story about a mother who is also an astronaut, and who must become a strong leader when World War III breaks out during a satellite run and threatens to strand her entire crew. As usual, there were a number of technical bits that weren't easy for me to understand, but Syne doesn't make them a crucial part of the plot, so you can get the gist and breeze on by to the next graph.
What I love about Syne's novels is that she makes her characters and their situations so normal, so believable, that you feel like you know the people you are reading about. She also has a sly wit, and makes that evident throughout her novels. Her female protagonists always have courage, and smarts, and grace under pressure, which makes sense when you realize that Syne herself displays these very qualities. I was fascinated by the way that Claire Logan, the heroine, took command of the space station, and managed to keep them from flying apart in the face of a radiation effect that threatened to kill them. She was able to handle a military creep who defines the word "jarhead" and keep the youngest member of the crew from suicide, while also keeping the Chinese crewman busy and helpful. I could empathize with Claires fears and worry about her sons radiation sickness and her husbands need of help to handle the chaos of an America that has been bombed.
That was my only problem with the novel; Claire's husband is such a weak idiot. He resents her career as an astronaut, he resents the time she spends with the child he helped to create and he resents her being at the space station. So we must assume from this that he's a jealous, weak and immature as*hole? Is Syne saying that, as Claire is a kind of everywoman, that her dork of a husband represents what most men think of their wives if their wives are successful mothers? If so, I have to disagree with her. My husband isn't jealous of whatever time I spend on our son, as he feels he's involved in Nicks growth and nurture, too. Claire's hubby cheats on his wife the first chance he gets, with a nurse who happens to respond to his call for help with his sick son. I found myself thinking Claire would be better off without this turkey, but at the same time, most kids really need both parents to help them grow, and divorce tends to cause emotional problems, so I'd wish that Claire works it out with weak hubby and helps him grow a spine.
What Syne didn't do in End in Fire was tell us what happened to the Japanese crewmate, Mutsuo that they rescued, and what happened to Hyun-Jin, her Chinese-American crewmate. All we know is that they jumped from the return capsule, and that they had parachutes. We have no idea if they lived or died, or were cut down by prejudiced, frightened Americans once they landed (America was at war with China). I also found it odd that North Korea, which regularly makes an appearance on the "Country Most Likely to Bomb US" list was ditched in favor of India, which doesn't seem to be as aggressive a country, with as crazy a leader in charge. But who knows, 20 years from now, when this story takes place, the political situation might have actually changed in exactly that way.
Right now I am in the midst of reading Wen Spensers "A Brothers Price" and a memoir by Ernestine Bradley about growing up in Nazi Germany.
Now that cooler temps are on the way, I'm looking forward to some great fall reading!