Review – Orbital Decay by Malcolm Cross

Posted: June 18, 2014 in Sci-Fi
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The first novella in Journal of the Plague Year definitely gets things off to an impressive start. All three of the stories in this collection are set in Abaddon’s shared world Afterblight series where an apocalyptic virus has wiped out humanity, leaving only a tiny percentage of the world’s population – some crazy, some desperate but all trapped in the nightmare of survival. It’s a great setting and has produced some decent novels but Cross’ effort to tell the beginning of the story is noteworthy.

Set on the International Space Station, six characters witness the beginning of the end in perfect isolation as they orbit the Earth. From the first seemingly innocuous reports of a new strain of bird flu, to the horrifying realisation that it is actually a deadly man made virus, the astronauts struggle with the fact of being safe but utterly powerless to help. Stranded two hundred and fifty miles away from the surface, with little chance to communicate to family and friends, things begin to go sour very quickly as tensions rise and arguments boil over.

From the outset, Cross really makes the reader feel immersed in the gravity-free wonder of a space station. Yet, very quickly, that wonder is turned up side down as the protagonist discovers that one of his duties involves an experiment that is suspiciously similar to the virus ravaging Earth. Suddenly, the silence and isolation of the space station becomes a claustrophobic warren as trust and friendship is tested, questioned and, finally, destroyed.

It is a microcosm of madness created to tell the narrative of the virus, brilliantly handled by Cross. The writing is controlled whilst the scientific discussions are extremely realistic, giving the whole novella a very believable and very scary feel. However, it is the sense of dread, slowly constructed by dark airlocks, whirring oxygen fans and radio static that drives the story, making it such a fantastic read.

Review copy
Published by Abbadon

  1. […] Cross wrote a brilliant and unique take on the post-apocalypse with his story Orbital Decay. He has now published a novel that has been released today on Amazon Kindle. Check out the blurb […]

  2. […] setting of the Afterblight. After the awesome Journal of the Plague Year which I reviewed here and here comes End of the End, a collection of stories detailing the post-apocalyptic landscape years after […]

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