A reluctant war hero sought out a posting running a remote asteroid beacon, but it turns out not to be quite as lonely as he’d hoped.
Hugh Howey got his start writing episodic novels, and Beacon 23 clearly shows that heritage. That’s not necessarily an issue; I very much like Roger Zelazny’s Dilvish, the Damned, for example. Howey doesn’t pull the trick off quite so well. There’s a certain amount of repetition at the start of each section, and it’s not handled as smoothly as I’d have liked.
To some extent, that’s true of the overall story as well. Howey’s prose lacks the subtlety that would have made this a really good novel. We’re not allowed to forget for a moment that the protagonist was a soldier – with frequent and somewhat clumsy slang, and military terms. Similarly, the beacon acts as a lighthouse for passing ships – a metaphor that’s hammered into us over and over. There are several infodumps that get in the way of the story, and there are some aspects where the story’s logic simply doesn’t work. Over all, it feels like Howey is trying too hard, not trusting his readers enough. I found Wool to be much more effective.
All that said, this isn’t a bad story. The protagonist is engaging, and the action is generally interesting. It’s not a story you’ll likely remember long, but it’s a pleasant short read.