“Like his previous tales of technocratically engineered futures (Macrolife; Stranger Suns; etc.), Zebrowski's latest evokes the pioneering SF of social philosopher Olaf Stapledon… In the 21st century, Earth incarcerates its undesirables in mined-out asteroids launched into new orbits for the duration of their sentences. «This use of distance as a better prison wall» is more than just an ingenious application of technology to the penal system: it's also a convenient trick for disposing of the socially misfit, since orbits are "accidentally" miscalculated to prevent their return. The narrative follows the histories of several of these “rocks” as their prisoners fight, unite and ultimately set out to create superior, self-contained cultures free of the taint of earthly ways. Individual asteroids house specific groups of offenders, ranging from hardened convicts to sexual deviants, juvenile delinquents and unwanted foreigners… Zebrowski argues his points with conviction.
«A brilliant and dramatic philosophical reflection on the nature of society, technology . . . and humanity itself. Zebrowski is a deep thinker who writes about the big questions' in the grand tradition of Wells, Stapledon, and Clarke.”
-- Jack M. Dann, award-winning author of The Silent and The Memory Cathedral
High Crimes Call for High Punishment. It is the twenty-first century. Convicts are sentenced to asteroids that move in ever-widening solar orbits, timed to return when their terms run out. But a few ambitious administrators discover that small “errors” in velocity can rid them of selected groups altogether: the hardcore violent, the mentally defective, and especially the political dissidents. Enduring the black vise of interstellar space-time, these human rejects--men and women mixed together--create their own Darwinian societies, struggling to survive.
Back on Earth, a handful of sympathetic and curious scientists have not forgotten these lost citizens. When a technological breakthrough makes it possible to overtake these scattered asteroids, a courageous team sets out to go where none has willingly gone before. What they discover in these “brute orbits” is both provocative and moving--a startling vision of humanity you will never forget.