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.
Winner of the John W. Campbell Award for best novel, 1999