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Publisher's Summary

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

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ted
  • Lancaster, PA, United States
  • 05-29-17

Best Sci-Fi Book in a While!

B.V. Larson's 'Starfire' and John Sandford's 'Saturn Run' are about the same thing. Each is propelled by a a cleverly different idea about Saturn and aliens. The difference is that Sanford is apparently not just a good craftsman, but a great one. Great? If you didn't believe it before, listen to, as I just did, the two books back-to-back. Unwittingly, Sandford gives Larson and us a writing lesson.

Take for example Larson's chameleon cast who abruptly display entirely new skill sets whenever the plot needs them. It's as if a stripper becomes a graduate engineer, a drunken sailor morphs inexplicably into a naval architect and on and on... Hmmm... if I could only awake tomorrow as a world-class pianist... Sigh.

None of that happens here in 'Saturn Run'. Okay, at first it's a little spooky to hear Sandford's Virgil Flowers in space. I mean Eric Conger's been Flowers through nine books so far. But Congers overcomes, and maybe it's his comfort with Sanford's own writing voice that made 'Saturn Run' so comfortable for me. I'm guessing that Clein brought an awesome technical expertise to support with Sanford's talent for plotting, characterization, and even narrative-driving, short-hand clichés that make this one of the best Sci Fi escapes I've listened to in a while.

Pass on 'Starfire' and buy 'Saturn Run'.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Limited ideas

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • San Diego, CA
  • 05-06-16

Hard Sci-Fi well told

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Combination of The Martian and 2001 Space Odyssey

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.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I kept waiting for this book to disappoint me...

What other book might you compare Saturn Run to and why?

"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.

Have you listened to any of Eric Conger’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. This is his best work to date.

Any additional comments?

Highly satisfying story and master-level narration.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Much more than that F'ing Flowers in space

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.

26 of 31 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Mission Abort

Any additional comments?

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.

30 of 36 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Js
  • 10-29-15

Hard SciFi, Treatise on Human Nature, Thriller

If You Liked "The Martian"

John Sanford impresses more and more. Correct science in the "science" fiction: yes. orbital mechanics, check. Brilliantly delineated cynical politicians, nailed it. Character development: people you learn to care about in peril. The Big Idea--unique! Pacing and suspense, yes yes yes.
Humor, of course.

Sanford brought Ctein aboard for the science, and in hundreds of pages, only once did my nerd radar twitch. There is a delightful postscript too, describing the science.

Dialog is a Sanford forte and he carries it over to "Saturn Run". These are Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin level interchanges.

And WHAT is out there orbiting Saturn? What a great concept he comes up with! I have read thousands of pages of SciFi and it is hard to come up with anything that has not been thought of before. I will of course be argued with, but for me, this exact concept is new, and that is amazing. I just can't talk about it because spoilers.

I will say that keeping the crew of the "Richard M. Nixon" in the dark about the mysterious Chinese space vehicle gave an ominous tension to the book, and subsequent revelations inform us re human nature. Great way to handle that part of the story.

I do have a complaint: it ended. Yes, it ended when it needed to end: not chopped short and not dragged out. It was just right, of course. needs an Ah, but how I wished for another hundred pages.

Two comments:
-If humanity gets hold of a way to produce abundant antimatter before we colonize the asteroid belt we will kill our own species; all our eggs in one basket, as Hawkings says.

-Sandord views humanity with that American blend of cynical ill-regard of humanity en masse and those who come to control societies, counter balanced with optimistic ebullient affection for individuals of the species.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This story stayed with me long after I'd finished

Would you listen to Saturn Run again? Why?

Yes! I found the characters and situations interesting, believable, and memorable. I wanted to continue on other space travels with these individuals!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Saturn Run?

There are many engaging moments. I cared about what happened next to these characters and I found the plot developments believable and enticing throughout. I would have liked to learn a bit more about certain aspects, but that just speaks to the engaging nature of the story itself. I found myself wanting to know what else happened to these individuals afterward, so for me, that's the sign of a well-drawn tale.

What does Eric Conger bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I liked the narration and found he made the characters come to life and the story feel like a movie I was watching in my head.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. I wasn't able to, but I was thoroughly engaged throughout.

Any additional comments?

I hope this author (co-authors?) write other sci fi together--I would look forward to reading their new works!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

way to do first contact, humans

This is a bit hard to rate and review. The science is great in this book, even if lots of things are skipped over. There's a whole chapter at the end explaining how the propulsion works. Sanford wanted real (quantum) science, not "wanton" science. No problems there.

The story's premise is that we have spotted a ship arrive and then leave Saturn's orbit. So there is a race to get out there to see what there is. The presumption is that there is something left there to see, since the ship is gone. I missed that reasoning, but okay. Ends up the Chinese and the Americans are the only ones ready to launch anything that could get there. It's a very interesting story, but with some long gaps between points of interest. Some aspects of the travel are glossed over, others are quite detailed. Both nations' ships experience some problems, but they work them out.

The narrator does the accents well, although there's not a lot of male/female distinction. The only accents are Chinese other than this one guy who surprises you with his voice, oh he must be black. Other than that, the narration is still okay. However, I still don't think Chinese people speaking among themselves should have a Chinese accent as this accent only shows up when they speak English! Speaking of English, some emphasis is placed on the fact that one of the Chinese crew can speak English, but we already knew that the captain could converse very well in English, and so could others, so what was the point?

The "hard to rate" part comes in here. Several events at different times on the American ship lead several people to believe there is a traitor on board. This is never resolved. To me, this is a huge hole that mars the story. I kept wondering how they could find out who the traitor was and how that person was communicating off the ship. If the plan is to have sequels, this might get resolved, but this story wobbles alone for now. Another rating difficulty comes with the mutual treatment of the two nationalities. The Americans knowingly screwed the Chinese regarding the alien tech, and so the Chinese retaliated in the only way they could. There's a lot of politics going on here, which actually outweighs the alien factor in the story. Maybe that's what the authors are trying to say--we'd be so intent on fighting each other, we'd mess up our first contact. Humans can not act as a species since we are still fighting our petty little planet-side wars.

The alien contact is wonderful. It is very plausible, and very titillating. This is going to change everything! We want more! Unfortunately, this part of the story is very small.

This story is engaging all the way through, with some excitement, but it left me unsettled and unsatisfied. I hope there is a sequel to ease some of this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful