This week I decided to reach back into the mists of science fiction history and review The Descent of Anansi by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes.
The story starts with the space-based corporation Falling Angel Enterprises narrowly voting to declare independence from the United States. To raise money they auction off a new highly advanced form of cable they have developed and the bidding comes down to Brazil Techimetal-Electromotores and the Japanese-based Oyama Construction, which plans to use the cable to complete a vital bridge. Oyama wins and the cable is loaded onto a cargo pod carried by the shuttle Anansi and crewed by pilot Janet De Camp, her co pilot and former lover Marion Guiness, and Janet's estranged husband Thomas who is an ion drive tech, along with Doctor Dexter Stonecypher, the creator of the cable they are carrying.
While en route, Doctor Stonecypher suffers a heart attack leading to the Anasi accelerating in order to reach help faster, but as the shuttle approaches Earth it is struck by a missile launched by Middle-Eastern extremists, damaging the craft and killing Doctor Stonecypher. Two Brazilian shuttles launch on a rescue mission but the crew of Anansi soon realize they are actually coming to seize the cargo and vessel. In the face of the first attempt at space piracy in human history, the surviving crew of Anansi launches a desperate attempt to get their cargo out of reach of the raiders and get their damaged vessel to safety on Earth while struggling to repel a hostile boarding party.
I give this book 7.5 out of 10. It is an interesting adventure story but I feel it could have really used some more length to better show the setting and what is happening away from Anansi. Still, the main cast is well developed, though it is also very small. And I have to say I think this is both the shortest and least accurate back cover description of a book I have ever read. Less then six lines with two of those in giant font and not a single sentence matches what is happening in the story. The back cover makes it sound like Falling Angel Enterprises is waging a war for independence against the United States when the only action the USA takes against Falling Angel in the story is a minor hurdle for the Anansi near the story's end and the only armed conflict in the main story is the missile attack and a short engagement with mercenaries.