Balooon-based floating telecom relays always make me think of an element in Robert Charles Wilson's sci-fi novel, "Spin," in which a mysterious membrane appears around earth that drastically slows down time inside. (A simulated sun maintains the day/night cycle) This effectively cuts the world off from outer space, including orbiting satellites. The world settles on high-altitude balloons as a replacement.

It's a really interesting book, especially once people realize that they can still launch probes or spacecraft out, just can't receive any transmissions back. And when they realize that they can take advantage of the different rates of time on Earth vs. outside.

There are two sequels, Axis and Vortex, which are very different. Worth a read, but I think Spin was the best of the three.

@hafnia Yeah, they had some interesting ideas - the chain of worlds, the floating civilizations, the different ways of linking people together cybernetically - but IMO the stories weren't anywhere near as good.

@KelsonV Yeah, I just had a hard time caring about the characters...? It's the same complaint I have about Dune: interesting concept/setting, but the people felt a little 'flat'. Spin was great because you grew up with the characters; the other two, not so much!

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