Saturn Run is my favorite kind of science fiction. John Sanford is well known for his mystery and suspense novels, specifically the Prey series. With Saturn Run, he has teamed up with writer and photographer Ctein to venture into the world of sci-fi. When an alien presence is detected around the rings of Saturn, both the US and China retool their Mars missions for a race to get to Saturn first. Everyone knows that the country with exclusive access to advanced alien technology will be able to dominate militarily and economically.
Sandford and Ctein set the story a few decades in the future. All of the scientific and technological elements are currently available or can be developed or extrapolated from current technology. I appreciate the absence of "magical" or completely made-up technology. I don't mind such things all the time. Light sabers, warp drives, transporter devices, etc., all have their place in sci-fi. But it's refreshing to read something as believable as Saturn Run. (Caveat: I am a lay person, with no scientific background beyond my college science classes for liberal arts majors.)
In this realistic scientific setting, they also happen to tell a great story. The preparation, the voyage, the difficulties along the way, and ultimately the unique form of "contact" with the aliens and the subsequent run-in with the Chinese are very well-done and make for an exciting read. Hard science, a great story with personal and political intrigue, and imaginative use of current and projected technology combine for a terrific book. I know Sandford's readers love his police novels, but I hope he has enough success with Saturn Run that he and Ctein can be convince to collaborate again.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!