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Human Resource by Pierce Askegren
Review by Barry Newton
Ace Books Mass Market  ISBN/ITEM#: 0441010792
Date: 28 February, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Earth?s Moon has been colonized for generations. Its inhabitants live and work under the auspices of the Allied Lunar Combine ? a group of corporations whose competitive relationships have evolved into cooperation. The Combine?s drive and ambition have turned the barren satellite into a profitable, harmonious enclave -- until now.

Erik Morrison snagged the job of Site Coordinator for EnTek?s lunar operations as a last, desperate act, clinging to employment after an earlier botched assignment. As soon as he arrives at Villanueva Base, he realizes his mistake: his body hates the place. He is one of those earthmen who does not adapt well to the moon?s gravity. Walking is impossible, eating unthinkable, and even liquid in a glass looks odd.

Being resilient, Morrison begins to adapt to his environment as he meets his new staff and his opposite numbers among the partner corporations. The partnerships that maintain a smooth operation on the moon exist for convenience; there are other areas where the various partners compete. EnTek?s contribution to the partnership is the production of brainware, semiorganic processors that are crucial computer components. These have begun experiencing ?datastorms? leading to system crashes that interfere with communications, lighting, and environmental controls. One of Morrison?s priorities is to discover the cause of the datastorm phenomena.

In addition to the business enterprises, the federal government has a research facility nearby, which seems to be heading for the death of a thousand budget cuts. Interestingly, Wendy Scheer, the new head of the federal enclave, seems unconcerned about the impending demise of her outpost?and has a remarkable talent for bending others to her will. Her long-term goals are not entirely clear, but she and all of the commercial actors are very interested in finding a lunar prospector who seems to have disappeared. Vanishing is a difficult achievement in a small community, and everyone wonders how?and why?he did it.

Human Resource unfolds with dark overtones, and hidden agendas all around. Morrison?s own history is hinted at, and gradually revealed as he begins to realize what his real assignment might be. This story has some rough edges, and certain sections feel like a text on Practical Aspects of Corporate Governance. The lunar environment is richly detailed, however, with a consistent rationale for the base construction and layout. Considerable attention is given to what foods and products are local, and which must be imported. The characters, while initially wooden, develop into interesting individuals. Morrison?s own cranky, ill-tempered interaction with his staff gradually mellows as he learns to walk, eat and sleep in his new home.

Pierce Askegren is perhaps more comfortable working in a graphic novel format, but shows considerable promise as a prose author. I look forward to the upcoming sequels.

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