Mission to Methone¯

Les Johnson. Baen, $16 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8305-6
The spirit of Arthur C. Clarke and his contemporaries is alive and well in Johnson’s old-fashioned first-contact novel, set in 2068. After Dr. Chris Holt discovers an anomalous object in the solar system, he is swept into a multinational mission, first to the artifact and then to Saturn’s tiny moon Methone¯, where alien intelligences dwell. The aliens, drawn to both his knowledge of science and his “difference in thinking” (clearly described but never named as autism), deliberately select him as the human ambassador and teach him about the ancient makers and destroyers who roam the universe to support or obliterate sentient life. Humans, on edge from the discovery of extraterrestrial life, may end up doing the destroyers’ work for them. What begins as a straightforward and fairly predictable story eventually becomes more developed. Johnson, a NASA space scientist, includes plenty of realistic detail and puts fun new spins on familiar alien concepts, though it takes a while to get through the familiar material and on to the more novel elements. There’s a great deal here for fans of early hard SF. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
Release date: 02/06/2018
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