The Belt Republic Series by Ted Butler


   Review of 2176: The Birth of the Belt Republic

Book One in the Belt Republic Series

Review by - Gerald Cline author of “Soldier in a Shallow Grave” Coming 2005 from Windstorm Creative.

Asked how to write a young-adult novel, Robert Heinlein once advised that he wrote an adult novel, and made the protagonist 16 years old.  I don’t know if Ted Butler ever read Heinlein’s advice, but his first novel, 2176: The Birth of the Belt Republic, is a wonderful example of how Heinlein wrote multiple best selling “young-adult” novels in the late 1950’s.

The story is set in 2176 in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  We meet Ted’s protagonist – Gil Klanz (who is actually 16 years old) – as he and a couple of friends prepare an elaborate prank to pull on their high school principal involving the school’s swimming pool and a large amount of lime gelatin.  Gil is a good student who recently won a coveted appointment to the Earth Federation Naval Academy on Luna.

When the prank goes horribly wrong, he not only loses his appointment to the academy, he is expelled from school and, as further punishment, his mother is fired from her lucrative position as a doctor working for the Belt Corporation.  Gil is banished to the zero gravity section of Keras asteroid. He finds himself among native “belters” who have no love for either the Belt Corporation – which governs the asteroid belt with an iron hand for corporation benefit with little or no regard for the “natives” – or for the “Earthers” who make up the majority of the employees of the pervasive BC.  Physical differences, between gravity-born Earthers, and the zero-G belters, make Gil the target of aggressive prejudice and harassment. 

Gil lands a job with a small independent freight company as a net herder, and finds himself slowly drawn into the belter’s independence movement through his new boss Senior (yes that is his first name) Lomack and his son Junior.

When Captain Garten – the senior BC Naval officer in the belt – declares martial law, determined to bring the disgruntled belters to heal with force, an (otherwise peaceful) demonstration is turned into an armed confrontation.  The outnumbered BC military is forced to evacuate Keras colony, and the Revolution is on.

Because this story is set against the background of Revolution and war Mr. Butler has to describe a number of battles ranging from individual combat in free fall to a very impressive full-blown battle between two fleets in deep space.  He does a very credible job.  He doesn’t glorify war, and in the end a high price is paid for victory and liberty. 

We follow Gil in his journey from a shallow youth playing practical jokes in high school to a young officer (and certified hero) in the new Belt Republic’s armed forces.  Along the way he learns that his limitations are much broader then he ever thought as he commands troops in combat. 

Even though this is a “young-adult novel,” anyone of any age who – like me – enjoys a good old-fashioned space-opera is going to enjoy this work.  I can honestly say that I look forward to reading Ted’s next novel with much anticipation.  

     -Gerald Cline author of “Soldier in a Shallow Grave” Coming in 2005 from Windstorm Creative.