And I’m going to tell you why.
It’s not just because he’s a solid storyteller, with a more-than-demonstrated talent for creating airtight plots, populated with believable characters who speak as if they were composed of flesh-&-blood rather than the propped-up cardboard generally encountered in outer-space-type adventures. And it’s not just because he places those stories and characters in gritty, detail-rich settings that are so convincing that the reader winds up thinking that if things don’t happen like this in the future, then they’re going to happen in some way very much like this. Those are storytelling virtues that justify the comparison that others have made, between Mr. Lowell and C. S. Forester, an earlier sort of chronicler of voyages to distant places, whom more writers would be better advised to emulate. But there’s more than that.
Nathan Lowell’s stories are in a very genuine way an extended meditation on that set of human behaviors which at one time were much admired under the rubric of “quiet competency.” That used to be considered a manly way to act, though just as many if not more women practiced it as well. To do one’s job, to do it well, and without hysterics — that was just what people did in the real world, back in the day.
We live in a different world now, and for most people, the workplace has become such a prison of “drama queen”-ishness, it seems more like a low-budget road production of MARAT/SADE than someplace where actual work gets done — or doesn’t get done, more often. It’s all about feelings now. A few years ago, I pulled a writing-editing-designing stint in a corporate gig; right off the bat, I found myself sitting in a room with a bunch of other people, listening to a bright young androgyne with the Orwellian title of some sort of “facilitator” as he proudly chirruped that at this company, how well you did your job wasn’t as important as how well you got along with other people. Having been around this particular block before, I sat on my hands and said nothing, but to myself I was thinking that I wasn’t going to be buying any stock in this company any time soon. (It’s actually the biggest company in the state I used to live in, and was hemorrhaging red ink even before the recession hit; it’s not going to make it, IMO.) What makes Nathan Lowell’s stories such attractive places to vicariously live in is that even though they’re nominally set in the future, the personal virtues are those of that past we all used to live in. A character who was more concerned about “getting along” than doing his job would probably be tossed out the airlock by the author’s other characters.
Well, maybe those days will return again. In the meantime, you can revisit them in Nathan Lowell’s excellent novels. I recently finished his FULL SHARE, part of his Solar Clipper Trader Tales series, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it to you.