Nicole Tracy | Literary Columnist
“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.”
The above is the synopsis for Saturn Run, by John Sanford and Ctein. John Sandford is a prolific novelist who is known for his detective novels — notably the Prey series, featuring Lucas Davenport. Ctein (pronounced Kuh-TINE) is a photographer who has more than 500 articles to his credit. Together, they take the reader to Saturn on an well written voyage.
The plot in a nutshell basically concerns an accidental discovery that a huge starship is decelerating in the vicinity of Saturn. Which, this can only mean that it must be an alien presence. China has been preparing a ship to colonize Mars, and the US has a space station which are both refit to race to Saturn to obtain this new technology.
The story is quite realistic for science fiction, with great ideas and a story flow that is completely believable as possible. Saturn Run delves heavily into science detail in the story, which makes for for some heavy reading at times. The story is well-researched and is more about the politics behind the race to Saturn than just mere ‘outer space aliens and robots’, like one usually expects with a science fiction type story.
The characters tend to take a backseat to the action and to the science, yet they’re interesting, plausible, and show more development than most science fiction authors manage.
The downside to the story is this: if the first 2/3 of the book was the mission to Saturn and the final 1/3 was from when they got close to orbit through the end of the book. The author intends that the major conflict is getting the tech, the minor conflict is getting to Saturn. The reading experience leads one to feel the opposite of that. Trying to get to Saturn at all, let alone on such a short timeline with all of the challenges involved was the best part of the story. What came after seemed quite anti-climactic. The ending felt slightly rushed and the plot twists seemed almost obligatory.
Despite that, Saturn Run is well worth a read if one enjoys reading Science Fiction. Overall, it’s worth the time to read it.
Saturn Run is available at the Howard County Public Library. Copies are limited, so if it is unavailable, ask at the front desk to be put on a waiting list for it.