Book Review: Saturn Run
Published By: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Page Count: 496
Source: eARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Science Fiction
In the 2060s, an astronomy intern is checking data from a satellite telescope and discovers that an object entering our solar system is decelerating and stopping near Saturn. In space, nothing decelerates, so the scientists conclude that it must be an alien vessel. When the news finally breaks across the globe, China and the United States enter a space race to be the first to reach Saturn.
If you had a recipe that called for one part The Martian (by Andy Weir), one part Spin (by Robert Charles Wilson), and a dash of Tom Clancy, you would get Saturn Run. There's something for everyone in this book: lots of procedural discussion for the hard SF fans, a fair amount of anthropological speculation about the aliens for the more philosophically inclined, and plenty of intrigue for the adrenaline junkies. I found myself absolutely unable to put this one down, much to the detriment of my house cleaning routines.
The pacing of the story is a lot like the pacing of the Richard M. Nixon, the American space ship in the story. To break Earth orbit, the Nixon must circle around the planet several times as its engines slowly add more and more thrust. Likewise, the book begins slowly and builds momentum a little at a time throughout, until the story becomes a juggernaut by the end.
Sandford and Ctein did a great job populating Saturn Run with interesting, three-dimensional people, including several incredibly strong female characters. Sandy, the lead camera man for the expedition is a rich, PTSD-stricken former art history major playboy. Commander Fang-Castro leaves her wife for the opportunity to captain the American expedition to Saturn. Becky, the pretty, mouthy, overweight energy scientist is whisked away to Washington where she decides to accept the offer to be the Nixon’s Chief Engineer. There are too many more to catalog, but trust me, there are easily a dozen deep characters in this ensemble novel.
There were only two tiny downsides for me. I did not like how Sandford and Ctein resolved two of the small subplots in the book. I don't want to give anything away, but once you read the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Warning for the sensitive: a lot of language and two sexual scenes (nothing graphic, just a discussion). I wouldn't give this one to anyone under 16.
The year is 2066. A Caltech intern inadvertently notices an anomaly from a space telescope—something is approaching Saturn, and decelerating. Space objects don’t decelerate. Spaceships do.
A flurry of top-level government meetings produces the inescapable conclusion: Whatever built that ship is at least one hundred years ahead in hard and soft technology, and whoever can get their hands on it exclusively and bring it back will have an advantage so large, no other nation can compete. A conclusion the Chinese definitely agree with when they find out.
The race is on, and an remarkable adventure begins—an epic tale of courage, treachery, resourcefulness, secrets, surprises, and astonishing human and technological discovery, as the members of a hastily thrown-together crew find their strength and wits tested against adversaries both of this earth and beyond. What happens is nothing like you expect—and everything you could want from one of the world’s greatest masters of suspense.