Project Orion. It's a revolutionary space-based defense shield, only weeks away from deployment. Promising global protection from missile attack by rogue nations, Orion offers an "umbrella" of security to a terror-stricken world. But even the loftiest aims often conceal darker intentions. Behind closed doors, insiders maneuver to control the new superweapon with an agenda that places all mankind at risk.
When Angela Browning, an ambitious journalist, receives a mysterious computer disk from an anonymous source, she can't believe the information it contains: photos of ancient structures on the planet Mars. But after diligent research, Angela discovers that the images originated from the Mars Observer probe, a satellite declared "lost" over a decade before. Perhaps even more troubling than the artifacts themselves is the implication that somehow, somewhere in the corridors of power, it's been decided that the discovery of intelligent life on Mars must be suppressed.
Angela's quest for the truth eventually leads her to Jake Deaver, the commander of the last Apollo mission to the moon. Deaver, a maverick his whole career, may be the only one who can help her shed light on a conspiracy that reaches into the darkest corners of Washington politics. But the pair's investigation takes them dangerously close to Project Orion, and a powerful cabal determined to prevent anyone from jeopardizing their plans. Now Jake and Angela must face the stark reality that pursuing the truth may put both their lives at risk. And the choice they make will change the world forever.
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About the Author
Gary Tigerman has worked as an actor, songwriter/ producer, and screenwriter. His numerous skills led him to radio and TV advertising, where he won four Clio Awards. He lives and works in Los Angeles, California, and is currently developing several feature-film and television projects.
Read an Excerpt
The Orion Protocol
January 27/Oval Office/the White House
"Two months ago, if anybody had said we were gonna catch this in the first hundred days, I'd have thought they were high."
The fifty-eight-year-old former senator from Colorado and newly elected President of the United States stared out the much-photographed bay window of the Oval Office and into the cut-back winter Rose Garden.
"What was it Truman said?"
On the desktop, the blade end of his letter opener, engraved with the presidential seal, tapped out a rhythmic figure from the William Tell Overture known to Americans who came of age in front of three black-and-white channels of network TV as the theme from The Lone Ranger.
From a clubby wing chair, R. Cabot "Bob" Winston, the President's national security adviser, recognized the galloping little perididdle and made a private note to include it in his memoirs: one of those little human details people liked to read about from a historic moment.
"When they told him about Fat Boy." The President clanked the blade into a decorated soup can/pencil holder his youngest daughter once made him for Father's Day. "Damn it, I know this."
"Ah, January of forty-five. In this room." Winston sat up minutely straighter, unconsciously signaling the sense of occasion he felt when past presidents were invoked within these walls.
The new President rocked in his leather chair.
"With Harriman and his whole sleek Ivy League crowd telling poor Harry-the-Haberdasher he had to nuke the Japanese."
"Or not," Winston said, in a small bow to the Office.
"Oh, I think Einstein's group was the only 'or not.'" The President's dry tone glinted off the darker edge of a sense of humor familiar to his campaign staff. "Jesus, what the hell did he say?"
Winston searched his own mental archives.
A buttoned-down Skull & Bones veteran of executive-branch politics, he had experienced an extraordinary tenure, having served at high levels in the NSA and on the National Security Council in both Bush administrations. His carryover appointment was both an olive branch across the aisle and a gesture of confidence toward Intelligence: a community beleaguered by scandal, Cold War excesses, and spectacular failures, now resurrected and seeking redemption through its mission against global terrorism.
Winston, their point man, produced an answer.
"Yes. Wasn't it, 'How much time do I have?'"
"No, 'How much time do I get?' " the President said, in Harry Truman's flat twang, savoring the Midwest inflection. "How much time do I get?"
Winston nodded, composed and ramrod straight.
Younger White House staffers had observed that he seemed to wear alertness like a mask, as if some hard-bitten mentor from the halls of spookdom had once cautioned him that blinking one's eyes was a sign of weakness. And, though word was passed down that the President regarded R. Cabot Winston as a symbol of national unity, many still referred to him in-house as "Robo-Bob." It was cruel, but fair.
"Well, I guess that's my question, too, Bob."
"We're a few days out from final testing, sir."
"Days." The President's surprise was eloquent enough.
Winston offered a thin-lipped smile. "With a caveat which I will explain."
As if triggering a pair of explosive bolts, the national security adviser loudly snapped open the bombproof briefcase handcuffed to his left wrist. He then produced a file stamped project orion/potus/eyes only and laid it flat on the Oval Office desk. POTUS used reading glasses to inspect it as Winston explained.
"This is the executive order authorizing continuing funding of space shield research and testing. The record enclosed represents decades of development and half a trillion dollars invested, give or take, each phase of publicly funded R & D supplemented with discretionary monies by presidential EO. The line for your initials has been flagged."
Noting all the previous presidents' initials displayed in succession, the new Commander in Chief handled the documents like rare historical artifacts prepared for display at the Smithsonian. But he'd have bet his campaign debt that this record would never see the light of day.
"I guess Star Wars didn't just fade away when the Wall came down," he said, leafing through the pages.
"Fortunately not, sir."
Classified above top secret, the file in the President's hands charted the progress of Project Orion from its Cold War roots as part of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a.k.a. Star Wars, to its post-911 incarnation as a space-based laser weapons system adroitly repositioned as a shield against rogue terrorist ICBMs.
"Ups the ante from a few missiles on the ground in Alaska, doesn't it?"
"The photon laser leapfrogs all other missile defense technology, sir."
The President nodded, his apprehensions intact: space-based weapons more than violated America's post-ABM strategic defense agreements with Russia. And September 11 no longer provided a free pass for whatever the U.S. wanted in the name of national security.
"So, what's the damned caveat, Bob?"
Winston presented the facts unadorned, like a nice neat hanging.
"There's a hard window for deployment, sir. We have twenty-one days."
"That's ridiculous. We're still looking for the johns around here."
"I understand, sir. But geomechanically, if we don't deploy Orion within three weeks, NASA says we'll have to wait a full year before we can try it again, which would be extremely problematic in terms of realpolitik."
For all the speeches at the UN pledging antiterror solidarity, unilateral deployment of uncodified American superweapons would be like throwing a flash grenade into the 3-D chess game of international relations.
The wariness in the President's demeanor edged toward anger.
"Why wasn't the transition team brought up to speed on this two months ago?"The Orion Protocol. Copyright © by Gary Tigerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
An Interview with Gary Tigerman
In his brilliant debut novel -- an edge-of-your-seat thriller about life on Mars, a government cover-up, and frozen alien remains -- Gary Tigerman has created a fascinating (and disturbing) page-turner that seamlessly weaves real-life events from history into its imaginative plotline. The result is a roller-coaster story so exciting and immediate that it reads more like breaking news than science fiction.
Tigerman talked to B&N.com about the difficulties in writing his first novel, how his past experiences played a vital role in the novel, and the next installment in the Orion Protocol series.
Paul Goat Allen: Gary, first off, congratulations on an amazing debut novel. The thing that made The Orion Protocol such an unforgettable read for me was the incredible sense of realism -- all the historical and political references, figures, documents, etc. Did you run into any problems because the line between fact and fiction was so gray?
Gary Tigerman: I did go through a brief paranoid period, chasing down classified documents about E.T. crashes, the Majestic 12, and stuff. My wife felt like she was living with a meth dealer. Also, just opening the daily L.A. Times became a continually harrowing experience: Every day there was some new space weapon hip-fake that threatened to box up my story. And I love having Jimmy Carter doing a cameo in the book, but it means I now have to pray every night that he will live long and prosper. At least long enough to play himself in the movie and, hopefully, get a bang out of it.
PGA: How much did your past experiences -- being a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and volunteering as guinea pig for a NASA experiment -- play into writing this novel?
GT: Being against the war was very politicizing, and I've been a politics junkie ever since -- something I suspect is more than a little evident in The Orion Protocol. For me, being a C.O. meant opposing the war by nonviolent means -- even refusing induction and going to jail, when it came to that. But no matter what lands you in prison, the best thing that anyone can do for you is to help get you out. So even though NASA may take a few hits in the book, I'll always be a big NASA fan because they came to the Arizona work camp I was stuck in and recruited me into their zero-G study at the Presidio in San Francisco. I actually think of Orion as something of a valentine to what was once great about NASA, something I believe it can and will be again.
PGA: Another remarkable quality about this novel was how much it read like a movie script. The paragraphs were fast-paced and the subplots tight and lean. As I read, I could so easily visualize this novel playing out on the big screen. Not surprisingly, I've heard that may well happen. How close is The Orion Protocol to becoming a movie reality?
GT: The Orion Protocol actually began as a film project I was developing for Richard Dreyfuss's production company, so it's no surprise it has a movie feel. The late NBC wizard Brandon Tartikoff read the story early on and saw it as both a book and a movie, and was the catalyst for my getting a book deal. I've written the screen adaptation; but forgive me, I'm not free to talk about which actors or directors or studios are interested. Dreyfuss's producing partner, Judith James, is doing the heavy lifting, and I'm confident we'll get it set up somewhere soon. Richard's got first dibs on doing the audiobook, too -- and people can hear him reading the prologue on my web site.
PGA: Information on your web site states that this is just the first book in a series. Can you tell your readers a little bit about Book Two, and when can they expect to see it on the shelves? GT: Yes, The Orion Protocol is the first book in a trilogy. I don't know what the next president of the United States is going to decide about sending a manned mission to Mars, or what NASA may choose to set in motion by the end of 2005. But that's about the ETA for Book Two, which has no title yet. And in Book Two we are definitely going Mars, big time. So anyone who enjoys The Orion Protocol is invited to suit up and come along for the ride. In the meantime, I'd like to invite everybody to sign the petition on my web site, which calls for a manned mission to Mars in this decade. Let's blur the line between fiction and reality even more by going to the Red Planet for real!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Doesn't anybody take geography anymore, where you learn that at the South Pole, January and February are SUMMER, as in 20+ hours of sunlight? So why is it Antarctic winter in Chapters 9 & 12? Doesn't anybody notice that the Moon always keeps the same face Earthwards? So why is the Earth rising at the start of Chapter 19? (Hint: the Earthrise of the 1968 Apollo VIII Christmas-Eve video was while orbiting AROUND the Moon, NOT ON IT. Doesn't anybody know that all lasers run on photons, so that there are no non-photon lasers? Look up 'pleonasm' and see its perfect fit to that silliest of terms 'photon laser'. I'm suspecting that Gary Tigerman is pulling an Alan Sokol on us (qv). Doesn't anybody know that a beam with Orion's power would explode the air in front of it better than a nuke? (Hint: atmospheric electrical breakdown flux-limit is 30 MW/square meter, barely half the flux at the surface of the Sun.) The USSR's nuclear-powered laser concepts were meant to generate ONE PULSE, not a continuous beam. The most amazing thing is that such gaffes ever got into print (and these are merely the worst of many). Whatever happened to quality control? On page 71, the Big Scare begins as a viral infection on line 2, becomes 'bacteria' in the next paragraph, then a virus again a few lines later. Avon must not have proof-readers. All this and gratuitous profanity too, and only the crudest, mind you. [Gee, I'm always so impressed with the toughness of the foul-mouthed, but personally I just can't get up the immense courage required for such advanced verbal creativity and poetic improvisation.] I'm still wading through this half-baked mess, looking for yet more such staggering mistakes. And people pay money for this!
Gary Tigerman's first novel zips along, pulling you right with it. His punchy style combines Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code' with a little Ross MacDonald. It's loads of fun to watch as he expertly peels back the layers of this fascinating, topical onion of a story. More political than SciFi, but enough of each that those of us who enjoy both genres have plenty to keep us turning those pages. Great book. You'll have a blast.
PROPERTY OF [ARMIN]