cover image Saturn Run

Saturn Run

John Sandford and Ctein. Putnam, $28 (608p) ISBN 978-0-399-17695-1

In this thoroughly absorbing first-contact yarn from author Sanford (the Lucas Davenport thriller series) and photographer Ctein, the Americans and Chinese reenact the fable of the tortoise and the hare in a race to claim the richest scientific find in human history. When Sanders Heacock Darlington takes a position at the Caltech Astrophysics Working Group, it’s only a way to keep himself occupied until his inheritance comes through. By accident, he’s first to observe an alien object decelerating in the solar system. This draws the attention of Crow, security adviser to President Amanda Santeros. Political power and social ideology create a volatile mix, with brinkmanship and errors of hubris that swiftly reduce the characters to their bare humanity. Scenes of wonder and beauty are joined with moments of helpless calamity at a pace that leaves the reader no time to look back and consider what just happened. The authors include plenty of fascinating technology and inside jokes for SF fans, and the conclusion is inevitable and satisfying. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Oct.)