Everything’s been done. It’s the near(ish) future and extreme sports have reached the end of the line. Orbital skydiving? Done. Deep free diving? Done. Competitive orbiting of asteroids from a standing start? Done. There’s nothing new, nothing dangerous, nothing cool.
Unless you’re Suave Rob. Rob has a plan, a plan to cement his place as one of the all time greats. All he’ll need to do it is the help of his best friend, his idol, some venture capitalists, years and years of profile raising events, a spaceship and a crew.
Oh and a supernova.
Dan Sawyer’s confident, assured prose hits the ground running and draws you into Rob’s orbit as effortlessly as he jumps in and out of everyone else’s. He’s a cool, smart, arrogant character who’s just together enough to realise he can be too full of himself. He’s also just crazy enough to attempt the central stunt, and Sawyer does some really smart character work to explain why. Rob’s a zen warrior, a surfer and athlete who has taken on and defeated every single challenge laid in front of him. That doesn’t mean he feels like he’s won the fight, though, and his drive to always go bigger, better, harder, crazier is equal parts Navy SEAL and astronaut, a wide-eyed joy-filled adrenalin junkie with just enough people skills to perform.
Sawyer’s got a deft hand with characterisation and he doesn’t shy away from the moments where Rob occasionally runs out of charm. To both their credits, Rob knows he’s done it too, and his friendship with Jeff, a fellow surfer and Rob’s sidekick, is based as much on Jeff’s good nature as his talent. Jeff’s job is to wrangle Rob for the world and it’s one he accepts, mostly, with grace. Tuppler’s job on the other hand is to be the wild-eyed genius, a man forgotten by history and who Rob stumbles on through luck as much as judgment. Together the three form a just about whole human being; Rob’s ambition and drive, Jeff’s talent and people skills and Tuppler’s instinctive genius.
Together, they take on the most gloriously over-the-top science fiction idea I’ve encountered this year: surfing a supernova. In the hands of a lesser author this would just fall apart into low end wish fulfilment and hand-wavy science but Sawyer’s better than that. He’s worked out how you could do it, the challenges along the way and what you’d need to do to protect yourself and he throws all of that and more at the three leads. The end result is a little like a sports movie combined with a classic piece of DIY Golden Age science fiction. They have no chance, no hope and almost no resources. They go anyway. After all, you don’t get many chances to ride the biggest wave in the universe…
Suave Rob’s Double-X Derring Do is vintage Sawyer; it’s smart, subversive, has a heart a mile wide and is wrapped around the joy of trying something impossible and succeeding. Ride this wave all the way in, it’s what Rob would do.