Nick Lake’s SATELLITE tells a heartfelt tale!
*Warning: This review contain mild spoilers in regards to characters*
There’s something inherently beautiful and awe-inspiring about space. Maybe it’s because of the vast possibilities it offers, or the sheer lack of knowledge we have about it. But have you ever stopped to consider what it would be like for someone who has spent their whole life in space? How they would come to understand life and wonder about earth? Nick Lake‘s Satellite explores just that.
Satellite follows Leo, a fifteen-year-old boy who was born in space. Leo, along with Libra and Orion, (two other teenagers who were born aboard a space station called Moon 2) is about to make the journey back home – to Earth. But how can Earth be home if Leo’s never even been there? If he’s never experienced the pull of gravity or the brush of wind? When they do return to Earth, Leo quickly realizes that everything is not as it seemed from thousands of miles above the planet. There are secrets being held by the mysterious post-NASA company that runs the space program, and Leo is determined to find out what he isn’t being told.
The slightly dark plot of the novel is lightened by Leo’s constant, refreshing wonder at everything around him. He sees the things we take for granted every day in completely new ways, and his voice makes the world seem truly magical. Though the novel’s concept is its strongest feature – the descent from space to Earth just realistic enough to be believable but creative enough to pull your attention – the poetry of the prose is a close second. Every moment, specifically those on Earth, is punctuated by Leo’s amazement and attention to detail. The lovely words don’t only enhance the story but leave the reader open to wonder in their own life as well. There is no way for you to view the world in the same way after reading Satellite.
Though the novel’s concept is its backbone, the plot does fall flat in places. The opening section, which takes place on the space station, is fast-paced and enticing, combining the reader’s immediate wonder at the setting and a potentially fatal system malfunction to create a heart-racing introduction. Lake’s insightful prose start right from the get-go, and the intense moments are peppered with thought-provoking observations. This opening section sets up the novel to be phenomenal, and left me excited for what was to come next. But the middle section, which takes place on Earth, quickly lost the momentum of the story. The middle section serves essentially one function: to show Leo’s amazement at Earth. And though these moments are beautiful, they are not enough to hold up the story. Yes, this section also explores Leo’s growing relationship with both his mother and his grandfather, but nothing really happens plot-wise. Every moment is a buildup to the twist we know is coming, which is frankly drawn out more than necessary. The heart of the story remains strong in this section, but the plot suffers, and this may be because of the absence of the most interesting characters in the novel.
Twins Libra and Orion are Leo’s fellow space kids, and on first glance they seem to be merely background characters. But, oh, they are so much more than that. They have been Leo’s only companions of his age for his entire life, and their bond is strong. But the twins quickly make themselves known as more than just an accessory to Leo’s character. Libra is a lover of plants and everything the Earth has to offer. She dreams of being able to plant a garden, and she is kind to a fault at times. Orion is quieter than his sister. He loves classical music and all types of stories, and dreams of being able to hear a symphony performed live. He is the most realistic teenager of the bunch, and though he seems closed off at times, he is a character that readers will quickly come to love. I know I did. In addition to being incredibly important fixtures in Leo’s life, the twins add a fun, family dynamic to the opening section of the novel. They truly ground the book. Which is why their absence in the majority of the middle section is so jarring. When Leo goes to his grandfather’s ranch the twins go to live with their mother, and we don’t see them for another 125 pages. Without their grounding effect, the story floats a little aimlessly for a while, Leo’s character just not complete enough to pull attention from Libra and Orion’s absence. Perhaps this is on purpose, so that readers may feel the same loss that Leo does without the twins constant presence. But the plotline in this section isn’t strong enough to counter that loss, and the story flounders because of it.
The novel’s third section brings our trio back together again, and the plot picks up again at this point. This section manages to marry the right amount of plot, insightful moments and interesting characters, making it the novel’s strongest.
Leo’s character is an interesting one. While he does not seem as captivating as Libra or Orion, he has unparalleled heart and a level of wonder that brings light to even the darker moments of the novel. He also realizes that he is gay throughout the course of the novel, and it is something that is not discussed as a possibility as this type of plot is in some literature, but is rather stated as an accepted fact.
Another notable component of the novel is the writing style. The entire book is written in a sort of text speak, using “c” for “see” and “&” for “and” and so on. Though the author has done this as a way of exploring the evolution of language over the next fifty years (as the book takes place in the future), it can be slightly jarring to read at the beginning, though you do get used to it.
Overall, Satellite tells a meaningful, lovely tale. There may be some bumps along the way, but the novel creates a powerful story. I would recommend you try this book, if only for the poetic prose and, of course, Orion and Libra.
A teenage boy born in space makes his first trip to Earth in this engrossing sci-fi adventure for fans of The Martianfrom award-winning author Nick Lake.
He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home.
Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known.
Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.
But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma? Because while the planet may be home to billions of people, living there is more treacherous than Leo and his friends could ever have imagined, and their very survival will mean defying impossible odds.
You can order a copy of Satellite right here.