Okay, I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I completely did. I mean, just look at this thing. Every time I went to Barnes & Noble, this book was practically dancing and singing on the shelf, begging me to take it home.
I resisted at first, but that’s pretty much just because I’m a ridiculous tightwad unless I’m buying something for my kids. Also, I was a little worried that it might be too “heavy.” It’s about a mission to Saturn, and while I’m not afraid of heavy reading, I’m not always in the mood for it.
It turns out I didn’t have to be. When I finally decided that I had to buy the book even if it was just so I could look at the pretty cover on my shelf, I discovered a story that was riveting and thrilling while also being very real. It was surprisingly down-to-Earth for a story about space, and I loved it.
Saturn Run is the story of an urgent flight to Saturn (and a race against the Chinese to get there first) when the possibility of a visit by an alien spaceship is discovered. You couldn’t possibly tell a story so big from just one viewpoint, so the authors didn’t. This a character-driven plot, focusing on how the mission affected the different people involved in it. There are a lot of characters, but they’re all very deep, distinguishable, and memorable. While the novel outlines the political aspects of space travel, it emphasizes the direct impact on the characters involved. The viewpoint changes numerous times, even within chapters, but it’s so seamless that it only adds to the story.
Although Saturn Run falls doubtlessly in the category of science fiction, it also just might be creating a new genre of “science really-could-happen-in-the-timeframe-specified.” The author’s note in the back (which you can’t read until you’ve read the story) shows just how much prep work the authors did for this novel, including plotting orbits and calculating the engine specifics of the starships involved. While the science is not what we have today, there was nothing as Star Trek-y as a transporter or a tractor beam (although those could have been quite useful to some of the characters). Sandford and Ctein took current science and advanced it by fifty years without throwing in a lot of magic and fantasy.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in science fiction. I even finished the last third of it with a terrible head cold because I just couldn’t put it down!