Richard Penn is a science fiction author with an unusual approach. His books are set in a near-future Solar System, working from the belief that no radical new science and technology is needed to get people into space, just determination and proper engineering. In the tradition of early works by Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke, he faces head-on the technical challenges such pioneers would face: gravity, radiation and extreme isolation. In this realistic scenario, space travel takes many months. He introduces the innovative idea of space travellers using passing asteroids as stepping stones to get to the Belt, the vast area of thousands of asteroids where the main series is set. The books are not severely technical, though. They also address the social and medical problem the settlers would face: how would they keep the peace, regulate their population, and manage the education of their children across such a vast space? The scenario in the books is based on a detailed simulation of the waves of human settlement, using the real movements of asteroids and planets as a framework.
This series, so far up to two books, follows the adventures of Lisa Johansen, a young policewoman, starting on the isolated station at Terpsichore where she grew up.
In The Dark Colony, a crisis arises when the body of an unknown boy is discovered at the space station, and the leaders of the colony are implicated in the crime. Lisa is assigned by the police force on Mars to recruit a team of friends, solve the mystery, and keep the peace on the station. The investigation leads to a secret colony where women and children are being kept as slaves, so Lisa and her team are assigned to deal with that threat. Before they can do anything, they need to devise and build a ship from the equipment available at the station.
In Freedom at Feronia, Lisa and her team have captured a ship and rescued children, who need to be returned to Mars. They were kidnapped from there years ago, and their parents are waiting for them. Along the way, the team are assigned to deal with a rogue colony, where the station on the asteroid Feronia has been taken over by fundamentalist Christians. These fanatics have cut their half of the colony off from the rest of the System, creating a servant class whose rights are not respected. The Asteroid Police want the colony brought back together, but with limited resources Lisa will need to rely more on intelligence than on force.
This series of novellas is set in the nearer future, at the time when private individuals and small groups take space travel over from governments and big corporations. They are going to space with the intention of living there permanently, using the resources they find in space rather than shipping everything up from Earth. This series is aimed squarely at young people with an interest in science and engineering, hoping to get more interest in building things for space.
In Spacetug Copenhagen, a small group of hands-on engineers in Denmark build a spacetug, a two-man boat capable of doing useful work in Earth orbit. Marius Kristiansen is the young engineer who built the boat and shipped it to orbit on an unmanned rocket. Using an orbiting tourist hotel as a jumping-off point, he and his naval-captain colleague set up a repair and reclamation business, taking in abandoned satellites, returning them to use or mining them for spare parts to build more boats.
In Caverns of Procellarum, Marius and his friends have a thriving station, and have even brought their families up to orbit to share it with them. They receive a distress call from the Moon. Abandoned due to a revolution in China, this colony of miners is barely hanging on to life. Marius and his colleagues are determined to help them, but the only viable option is to build a Moon lander and fly there with his apprentice Corinne, to put the Chinese colony on a viable path. Once there, he takes a couple of side trips, using the Apollo 12 landing site as a way to exhort the American people to get back on track to space, and repairing a Russian mine at the south pole of the Moon, so that an Australian company can start mining there.
All of the books are available as either e-books or paperback, and a hardback version of "Colony" is now available. Click on one of the links below to buy any of the books. To contact the author Tweet to @RichardFPenn if you have any questions or comments, or join the discussion on Goodreads.
UK Paperback customers are advised to buy from Lulu - faster and cheaper shipping
|Buy The Dark Colony|
|Buy Freedom at Feronia|
|Buy Spacetug Copenhagen|
|Buy Caverns of Procellarum|