Orphan’s Destiny by Robert Buettner

Warner Aspect
302 Pages
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Jason Wander is stuck on the Jovian moon Ganymede after the events of Orphanage, Robert Buettner’s impressive debut novel. Orphan’s Destiny, Buettner’s second novel, picks up the events from that point and continues Jason’s tale as he adjusts to his brief post-war life. The first wave of Slugs he and his regiment fought in Orphanage was only the first salvo in the Slug War.

Buettner does a very admirable job of conveying Jason’s life after the events of the first book, from the survivor’s guilt Jason (naturally) feels, to his adjustment from soldier to political puppet. Here in Orphan’s Destiny, again told in the first person, Jason’s story comes across very genuinely, and for all of Jason’s heroic acts, in a rather self-deprecating manner. Despite the successful campaign Jason led, he still has no preconceived notions that he is a hero, he considers himself simply a soldier. However, years have passed between Jason defeating the Slugs on Ganymede and his ultimate return to Earth. Still present are the clouds of dust from the impacts of the Slug missiles, but the political climate has changed, and amidst all of this, Jason adjusts to being considered a Hero, and everything the role of Hero entails as a symbol to the people of Earth.

Along with Jason, the scientist Howard, his pilot/best friend Munchkin, and soldier Brumby comprise his closest friends, and the ones who keep Jason company on Ganymede as he awaits the ship that will return him home. Jason’s military father figure, Ord also remains part of Jason’s supporting cast. In addition, Buettner introduces some new military personnel and a “handler” of sorts for Jason in his role as savior. The dichotomy between Jason and the aide, Ruth, is handled pretty well and Buettner did a couple of things I didn’t quite expect with the two, throwing a couple of curve-balls. I think this all goes to show how well Buettner creates a cast of supporting characters for the protagonist. Each character has their own voice and intermingles with Jason in their own way. Hibble provides a sort of comic relief with his scientific explanations that often frustrate Jason with their lack of necessary brevity.

Reading the back of the novel, I was expecting more action than I read, but my expectations did not let my enjoyment of the novel suffer in the least. The flow of the novel was great, with tight interactions between the characters. All of these interactions were compelling and propelled the narrative forward very quickly. Another thing that made it difficult to simply put the book down were the little hooks with which Buettner ended each chapter. This served to tantalize me and prolong either my lunch hour or extend my cardiovascular work out at the gym as I needed to find out what the tease was about.

If I can raise any negative about the novel to balance things out, and it is small, is that the conclusion seemed a bit rushed, the end happened rather quickly. On the one hand, the whole novel moved very quickly, so this made a sort of sense, from a storytelling perspective. As the novel was drawing to a close, I was unsure as to how Buettner would bring events to a close. After all was said and done, I thought it worked out.

This very minor fault aside, I was not let down as the narrative continued to speed along very briskly. I think it would easy to surmise from my review that I think Robert Buettner’s skills as a storyteller and writer of fiction have increased between the two novels and I truly hope to continue reading about Jason Wander.

© 2005 Rob H. Bedford

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