THE GETAWAY SPECIAL
by Jerry Oltion
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Based on his recent novels, a chance to go into space would be the ultimate in wish fulfillment for Jerry Oltion. In Abandon in Place, both the novella and the novel, Oltion sends a group of astronauts to the Moon in the the collective subconscious's memory of the Apollo rocket. In The Getaway Special, Oltion provides the most elementary scientific mumbo jumbo to explain his hyperdrive, although in reality it seems to be little more than the wish fulfillment which propels his Abandon in Place characters to their destination.
The novel begins with Allen Meisner's hijacking of the space shuttle when he is supposed to be performing experiments on it. When NASA agreed to allow him to conduct his experiment on board they shuttle, it did not realize that Meisner (Oltion's standard "mad scientist," the same character made an appearance in Abandon in Place, although in what can only be termed an alternative existence) intended to demonstrate the functionality of his new, cheap hyperdrive while simultaneously making it available to the entire world.
Naturally, the establishment (and the crew which is flying with Meisner) does not see his revelation in the same terms he does, and he soon finds himself back on Earth and on the run from groups which do not view the hyperdrive as a boon to society. Meisner, and a motley crew of supporters, must stay ahead of the authorities while the world recalibrates itself with the new technology.
On a completely logical level, The Getaway Special does not entirely work. Characters do not always act in a manner which is consistent with human nature, nor do organizations. Meisner's ability to build both the hyperdrive and a spaceship out of readily accessible equipment strains credulity. Nevertheless, The Getaway Special does not depend on these weaknesses. Instead, Oltion is successfully engaging the reader's sense of wonder while allowing them to dispense with their sense of disbelief. The Getaway Special is a throwback to a golden age of science fiction which concerned itself with presenting the different in a way that made the reader yearn for it.
Oltion is basically giving the reader a tour of several solar systems. Unfortunately, in order to do so, the planets (and eventually aliens) he introduces are briefly shown, but Meisner does not have a lot of time to explore these areas. While Oltion has left open the possibility for sequels to The Getaway Special, the feel for that novel would most likely be very different, as Oltion seems to be pointing towards a more traditional space opera, as Judy Gallagher, the shuttle pilot who has been swept along on Meisner's adventure, think of it, she has become a member of the "Galactic Federation," rather than of Earth or the United States.
The characters, both human and non-human, are interesting and full of surprises. While Oltion frequently gives the reader enough information to figure out part of the story before Meisner and Judy do, the eventual revelation of the full truth completes the picture in a way which Oltion does not reveal until he has decided the time is right.
The Getaway Special is a fun novel which will make the reader reminisce about the books read when first discovering the science fiction genre. The characters are not stereotypes or archetypes, but they still retain enough features of those types to be readily identifiable and allow the reader to empathize with their situation. Oltion's whirlwind tour of worlds leaves the reader wanting more, in both quantity and detail. Whether or not his next novel is another story of Meisner and Gallagher or not, it is to be eagerly anticipated.
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