For fans of The Martian, an extraordinary new thriller of the future from number-one New York Times best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Sandford and internationally known photo-artist and science fiction aficionado Ctein.
Over the course of 37 books, John Sandford has proven time and again his unmatchable talents for electrifying plots, rich characters, sly wit, and razor-sharp dialogue. Now, in collaboration with Ctein, he proves it all once more in a stunning new thriller, a story as audacious as it is deeply satisfying.
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 100 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 a 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.
©2015 John Sandford (P)2015 Penguin Audio
I like John Sandford as an author. He can write. His stories are often enjoyable.
However, Saturn Run doesn't quite make it as a decent sci-fi story.
What I think were the biggest misses here were 3 fold.
- One, Saturn Run was written using many many 1st persons. Because of this no single character is developed past a rudimentary two dimensions. You just don't care about these guys.
- Two, As a lover of sci-fi, this is a very limited 1st encounter take. The first half of the story is a helter skelter race to get to this alien space station before China. They want to see what new tech is available. The middle, is an encounter with this alien presence. Its about as uninspiring as any sci-fi I have ever come across.
- Three, and kind of a spoiler... The Chinese are up against the Americans here. The last part of this story is just so dull. Its intended to be a suspenseful climax, but at this point its just goofy.
I took a chance on a new book with an author I've never read because I liked the concept of investigating a mysterious spaceship like at the start of Event Horizon or Sphere. The problem with those movies is that everything leading up to the reveal is interesting at which point the story falls apart. Saturn Run is the opposite, the payoff is compelling and much more so than the rest of the book. There's almost no tension in the "Space race" and it's a long way to Saturn with dull characters. As a one-off book it's unfortunate that the reveal won't be expanded upon, because that was the story that should have been told instead.
A great action author crossing into hard SF successfully. Win. Win. Win. I really enjoyed the story and the attempt to keep the science as close to realistic as possible. This was well thought out, well timed, and the characters well considered. The only trouble I had was hearing Eric Conger and having this not be a Virgil Flowers story. That took a bit. Conger can be a little dry when switching voices. His very clear and direct speaking style makes for a good listen, but it can make distinguishing the characters a bit less easy. Still, this is a great space race story with lots of believable science and a deliberately simplified by plausible first contact scenario that doesn't try to answer all the big philosophical questions of the universe.
Re Audible: I rate A-F based on 10-pt scale (e.g. 90-100 = A = *****). I try not to be too soft on ratings, or needlessly give F's.
If you like HARD sci-fi and political strategy, this is the book for you!! Unfortunately it really was NOT the book for me. This is definitely one of those books to which I wish I could give 2 different scores/ratings. One would reflect how much I liked (or disliked as the case may be) the book and one would be for the quality of the book itself, which was admittedly reasonably well thought out, I guess. It just wasn’t a book for me.
The Story (B–/C+)
The good: As far as hard sci-fi goes, this one is definitely effective for remaining within the constraints of known physical laws and [pseudo-]feasible technical capabilities. I liked the fact that ideas were largely within the realm of reasonable suspension of disbelief. As far as political strategy and game theory goes, WOW! The authors really did a great job with that. The latter portion of the book even had my relatively stable stomach in knots. The down-side is that political gamesmanship doesn’t engage me nearly as much as it just gets me angry at humans (so, they weren’t really the good kind of knots).
The bad: While the novel stood on technically and scientifically stable legs, it lacked the majesty, scope, and sense of awe I associate with what I think of as really great sci-fi (e.g. much of Alistair Reynolds). To me, the detailed account read less like impressive technical achievement or cool sci-fi and more like a treatise on all the minutia of months of space travel (i.e. not much drama, and a whole lot of “here’s a problem… there, we fixed it… here’s another problem,,, etc.”) with a little political chess shuffled in. The political posturing was largely just that—posturing—for the vast majority of the book; until some action picked up near the end. Even then, I just didn’t get into it. The crew selection and the characters who got on board a ‘pioneering expedition for all mankind’ was a little absurd. Characters included a slacker, a news reporter, an anthropologist, his CAT(!), and some scientists. How many of these people had any semblance of proper training for zero-G environments, technical aspects of space travel, biosecurity, or any clue as to how to pilot a ship? …ummm maybe ONE. So, the book slapped together totally unrealistic crew, all together too realistic (i.e. boring) account of space travel, and political posturing to result in a tale that kept hinting, and kept me HOPING, that the cool stuff was just around the corner. For the most part, I felt like it was a corner that never really came (with exception of the aforementioned political maneuvering, which isn’t my cup of tea anyway).
The Narration (D)
If the average Audible book narrator is a C (and someone like RC Bray is an A), Eric Conger earned himself a nice fat D. He didn’t fail, because he was tolerable. He did FAR from excelling in voice acting, because every—and I mean EVERY—character had almost the exact same voice. There were a couple of subtle accents adopted, which shifted over the course of the book (compare early Fang-Castro to late). He did FAR from excelling in narration, because everything was [overly-]enunciated and dictated more like a manual than a story. It was all kind of bland/flat.
More about my general book tastes (so you can decide if my opinion is even worth your time):
Favorite Sci-Fi Audible books: The Martian, Fear the Sky, House of Suns, Permutation City, Diaspora, Blindsight.
Aspects of favorite books in general: I like reality-bending questions. I LOVE the abstract and awe-inspiring! I like a book to not only escape today, but largely escape reality. For awe-inspiring, Brian Greene’s non-fiction physics books are great, Alastair Reynolds captures the scope of space and deep time while making dark and complex characters, Greg Egan (some of his books) are enthralling for the way they tackle questions of consciousness and what does/doesn’t human consciousness unique/special. Outside of science/Sci-Fi, Neil Gaiman’s novels (which simply can’t be beat) convey the mystery and magic of fantasy while adding a slightly darker/gritty realism to it.
Things that don’t quite cut it for me: Many of the works by Iain M. Banks are interesting, but leave too much of the space/science part out of the Sci-Fi. Peter F. Hamilton’s work is enjoyable, but often has a little too much that comes a little too close to magic for my Sci-Fi interests.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
There is a lot of science in this science fiction book, but also a decent story. It does get sort of weird near the end, bur you should expect that from any book in the genre, you always need some aliens. The more "other worldly, the better.
Better known for his Lucas Davenport (Prey Series), this a a new genre for John Sanford. You probably need to like science fiction to enjoy this, and if you are a woman who likes science fiction maybe even more so; many of the major characters are women. The book's major theme is a race between the US and China to explore an alien sighting in the rings of Saturn. This leads to some good tension-filled moments.
If you are really into the science part of Science Fiction make sure to listen to the addendum after the book.It has some really interesting discussions on different approaches to interplanetary rocket propulsion systems.
I thought this book was going to be one of my favorite books this year for the first 90% of the book and then it just fell apart with an ending that really doesn't match the rest of the book. I could barely finish it and was so disappointed. So sad, but my final reaction was just sort of meh. Wish I hadn't wasted the credit.
As a kid I was a huge fan of “Hard Sci-Fi” which by my definition is future fiction which focuses on technology which feels like it might be really real someday. This book is exactly that…and I loved most of it. Sandford tells a story like nobody else and his driving narrative is at the core of this tale. His partnership with Ctein who provided the very credible tech components worked really well. The characters are typical Sandford. Our hero is a 2065 version of Lucas Davenport and I’m OK with that. If there was anything not to love in the book it was its revival of a cold war conflict between the Americans and the ascendant Chinese. I realize that having bad guys is a typically a narrative requirement but there was so much fascinating and fun stuff going on already did we really to add such a transparent boogie man? That aside, the ‘First Contact’ component of the story is really well done and I would have enjoyed much more of it. Not since rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke has such a credible and compelling first contact story been told.
The book moves along at a nice pace and is packed with interesting characters. If you are a fan of the Prey novels or good old fashioned Sci-Fi give this book a listen.
It's the kind of long-form hard science fiction that is increasingly rare, or perhaps more common these days. It's been weeks since I finished it but it remains strong in memory as does the story of Rebecca Johannsen. Overall I think it's one of the more exciting and compulsive reads I've enjoyed in this genre. A win.
"20000 Leagues Under the Sea" meets "A Brief History of Time" meets Virgil Flowers. It sounds like a mess, but the authors actually pull it off.
Yes. This is his best work to date.
Highly satisfying story and master-level narration.
Absolutely recommended this book. A new direction and characters for John Sandford. I would read more stories about these characters. The book made me think what space travel may be for the future. The characters were so interesting even the characters from other star systems.
The writing made me want more.
All the characters had personalities that drew me in to want to know more about them.
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