"Orbital Resonance" by John Barnes examines the life of its protagonist, 13-year old Melpomeme Murray, in a combination of a coming of age tale and sociological and political commentary about an alternate future involving a rapidly degenerating Earth. I didn’t know what to expect for this, being my first Barnes novel overall, but I was pleasantly surprised and drawn into many of the moments within this work.
Melopomeme is a likable lead to follow. I’ll fully admit that I liked and identified with her voice and natural poise for relating her experiences (even down to the special language she uses, like "Pos-def"). She’s described in the way of a typical teenager – having school, friends, and other concerns, though she lives within an asteroid colony called "The Flying Dutchman". Given the terrible state of Earth with dwindling resources, an outbreak of mutAIDS, ongoing war and hostility among other factors, generations are being transferred to the asteroid colonies in order to save humanity as they know it. Melopmeme tells of her day to day trials and tribulations. Some of it is very interesting, especially the ongoing trials of Melpomeme helping a new recruit adjust to his life on the colony despite the social stigma that others assign to him (Randy). It operates very much like what the social clique system operates with teens in today’s society, though having more weight since the environment weighs much more on delegating these kids have to work together as a central group. There are other things like the games that are vivid and interesting to watch unfold. Barnes has an intriguing blend of imagination as well as commentary about the weight of the issues he depicts.
However, I have to say there were many times when the work tends to dwindle too much, and it took me a while to get through those parts in order to hit the next point where it became intriguing again. It takes slice of life, political/social commentary, and science fiction and wraps it all into a web of experiences for the heroine, though I think the last chapter could’ve amounted to more than what it did, to my chagrin. The book also shows its age in places since it was penned in 1991, so there may be aspects where the ideals seem outdated or odd with the mention of certain years.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed most of the ride that "Orbital Resonance" took me on, and appreciated some of the messages that it put forward. I know it’s the first book in a related (but not necessarily connected) series, and I’m interested enough to pursue the other books to see where they go.
Overall score: 3/5