This is the first book I've read by Daniel Suarez and I'm sure it won't be my last. Suarez has done a fantastic job of creating a well-researched, deftly written, hard-science fiction novel of the near-future. It is a story full of page-turning suspense, wild adventure, and love and courage in the face of imminent destruction.
The story begins in 2032 with Nathan Joyce, a wunderkind billionaire with an eye on becoming a trillionaire. He is one of the "New Space" titans, determined to be the innovator that launches humanity into the depths of space for resources and glory. While his competitors are focused on developing the technology to take robot mining techniques to the moon and Mars and use the acquired materials to build and maintain planetary colonies, Joyce has a different idea.
Instead he intends to send humans, as well as robotic mining machines, to 162173 Ryugu to harvest valuable metals, gases and water from the regolith of the asteroid. 162173 Ryugu is an actual asteroid, which is also listed as a potentially hazardous asteroid of the Apollo group. It is his plan to kill one stone with two birds. One goal is to mine deep space asteroids for valuable materials, as mentioned, and the other is to put humanity in a position to protect the planet from dangerous interactions with near-earth asteroids. He also believes that mining the moon and Mars would be expensive and counterproductive as it would require lifting all the mined materials from the gravity wells of those planetary bodies which would dramatically increase the "Delta-V" (literally "change in velocity"), which represents the "...measure of the impulse that is needed to perform a maneuver such as launch from, or landing on a planet or moon, or in-space orbital maneuver." In short, Delta-V is fuel and fuel is money, lots of money.
In order to do this he has assembled a team of scientists, technicians and adventurers to shoot into space and bring the goods home (or at least into a near-Earth orbit) where they can be processed and used for further space exploration. James Tighe is one of the adventurers, an itinerant cave-diver of courage and skill, and the main protagonist of the story. He will be joined by an ex-special forces explorer, a failed Chinese astronaut, and mountain climbers, and wingsuit flyers among others. They will be tested to their absolute limits and not all will survive.
Along with telling a compelling and intriguing story, Suarez has also done an excellent job of research and analysis of the realities of interplanetary space travel, the cost and rewards, the dangers and the challenges. The science writing and representation is impeccable. The characters are well-drawn, believable and relatable. In a community like ours we know something about the kind of people that would be attracted to that kind of adventure, those kind of risks. Hell, we are those kind of people! If you like really well-written and believable science fiction, and bold and courageous characters, as well as a view of the challenges that await humanity on the New Space frontiers, then you will love this book.