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Orbital Decay

Allen Steele

Publication date : 1989

Ace Books

A science fiction novel that features a group of deadhead space construction workers. One chapter is titled "The Wheel" and the book is partly dedicated to the Grateful Dead.

Popeye Hooker knows that space isnít all itís cracked up to be. A former fisherman who takes a job building low orbital stations to escape a failed relationship, he finds that in space, construction work is still a grind. And when they arenít building the space stations that will usher humanity into the stars, Sam Sloane and the rest of the beamjacks get high, blast the Grateful Dead, and stare through telescopes at the world they left behind. But life in orbit is about to get much more interesting. Nestled among the life support equipment that keeps them alive and the entertainment systems that keep them happy, the beamjacks find something astonishing. Turns out, their home isnít just a space stationóitís a giant antenna designed to spy on every inhabitant of Earth. Itís the greatest privacy invasion ever perpetrated, and the beamjacks wonít stand for it. They may not be pioneers, but these roughnecks are about to become revolutionaries.
Orbital Decay was written in 1986/87 and published in 1989. In the introduction to the 2013 edition Steele writes:
When Orbital Decay was first published, it was slammed by several reviewers, mainly in the [science fiction] fan community, for the apparent sin of cultural myopia. Some of them couln't bring themselves to believe that, in the faraway year of 2016, there would still be hippies and bikers, or that anyone would still be listening to bands like the Grateful Dead. .... There are still plenty of hippies, bikerts, and Deadheads in the twenty-first century, and I have no doubt that some of them will eventually find their way into orbit.
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