‘Saturn Run’, the novel by the writer John Sandford and photographer Ctein is a well knit combination of Science Fiction and Espionage Thriller all in one. The Science Fiction consists of the voyage of a Earth spaceship traveling to Saturn after an alien spaceship is discovered entering our Solar system and going to the ringed planet. The story therefore fits into two of my six ‘Great Themes of Science Fiction’. Number 3, Alien encounter along with number 1, the Exploration of Space.
The Espionage Thriller part comes from the fact that there are two Earth ships, one American and one Chinese and each side is out to grab some alien technology all for itself. The story takes place in the year 2066 so the science and politics haven’t changed all that much from today.
As far as the Science Fiction is concerned ‘Saturn Run’ tries very hard to be as accurate and up to date as is possible. Everything in the two Earth Ships is based on extrapolations from current technologies and the technical descriptions while brief, this is a novel after all, are still clear enough to give a good idea of what is going on.
The story is certainly exciting and well written with an ensemble cast of well developed characters. The action is also fast paced, it certainly kept my attention.
I do have a criticism however. (Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know too much skip this paragraph and the next) The alien encounter is probably the least interesting part of the story. We never meet any actual aliens, the alien station out in Saturn’s rings is kind of an automated supply depot and it’s computer is programmed not to give out any information about the aliens.
It does give out technology however, everything anybody would want to know about making and using anti-matter. In fact the aliens in ‘Saturn Run’ are pretty much just a plot device. Supplying something valuable that the Americans and Chinese can then fight over.
To me, the idea that the first encounter with another intelligent species would give us more cause to fight amongst ourselves is pretty depressing. Unfortunately, knowing human beings it could very well turn out to be that way.
With that in mind I do recommend ‘Saturn Run’. It’s a fun read and the technology keeps your attention. If you liked ‘The Martian’, and who didn’t, you’ll enjoy it.