A HANDFUL OF STARS by Dana Stabenow

Handful of starsThere is not a lot of hard science sci fi written by women.  So I am always a-twitter and agog when I come across an author of the female persuasion who writes dynamite hard science sci fi.  When men write sci fi, it tends to be heavey on military maneuvers, wars, interpersonal battles,  you know, the typical testosterone stuff.  When women write sci fi, it leans more toward character-driven motivations.  JMNSHO.

Stabenow is probably my fav female sci fi writer.  So far.  She is a prolific writer, with two different mystery series, and a three volume Star Svensdotter sci fi series, plus a handful of stand alone titles, as well.

A Handful of Stars is the second in the Star Svensdotter series.  The first is Second Star,  which I talked about here.  Star’s first name is Esther, which also means star, and she is a kickass chick, large and in charge.  After heading up the building of EllFive, which then had a one day revolution and became independent, changing its name to Terranova,  she is offered the chance to head up a mining operation to be set up in the asteroid belt, mining on the various asteroids for minerals and rare materials needed by not only Terranova but by other places.   The asteroid belt is sort of the shape of a doughnut, as wide as the distance from Sol to Terra, and fills up the space between Mars and Jupiter.

As Isaac Asimov wrote:

The asteroid belt is a paper tiger.  The material in it is strewn so widely over so vast a volume that any spaceship going through it is not at all likely to see anything of visible size.

However, some objects orbiting through their destination were

‘minor planets’.  Asteroid means ‘starlike’.  Asteroids aren’t.  Astronomers call them the vermin of the sky.

They drop anchor outside of Ceres, which is actually a minor planet and the largest object in the asteroid belt, where two other mining companies have set up shop and created a small city, complete with bar, brothel, and a fundamentalist preacher.   The asteroid belt is lousy with miners — think of the Gold Rush in California and Alaska, and you’ll have the picture.  Partnerships, loners,  claim jumpers, murders, drunks, druggies.    Yeah, Ecclesiastes  was right.  Nothing new under the sun.  Humanity never changes.   When I think of these miners on their little asteroids, I think of the Little Prince standing on his tiny planet.


They go about their business setting up a school and hospital on Ceres, headed by the cargo of nuns they brought with them, and locating asteroids which have the goods they need.  They work on a system to ‘ship’ these mineral-rich asteroids whole to Terranova – kind of a long distance propeller toy.  Takes a few months for the shipment to arrive, but geez, have you mailed anything on Earth these days?  If you aren’t Amazon, it could take …. well,  …. months.

Then they come up with the idea of selling prefab worlds to specific niche groups who don’t want to be bothered with the rest of humanity that they don’t get along with.  I so love this.  Although this is not a unique idea, (Kim Stanley Robinson used it in 2312,  as did M. H. Van Keuren in Ligitimacy. ) it has a ring of the right idea at the right time, doesn’t it.  Wouldn’t you like to get a group of like-minded folks together and go live on your own little rock?  It’s a cool idea:  they ream out the center, give a couple of skylights for sunshine, create an atmosphere using the native chemicals, and make gravity using spin.   I can see the posters now:  Make Gravity, Not War.  Then they build housing.  Move in condition.  Location, location, location.

Our lovely lady protagonists got preggers just before they left Terranova, and she and her husband have twins.  How nice for them.  Imagine growing up in zerogee.  But there is sadness, too, when her husband gets……. ooooh, oops.  Almost gave too much away there.

So she is a little nutz in prep for the next book in the series, Red Planet Run.  Looking forward to reading that.  You know me and Mars.



One comment on “A HANDFUL OF STARS by Dana Stabenow

  1. Boulenouar Med Yamin says:

    Great and original WORK…!!!

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