Current reads: Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein (SPOILERS, maybe)

(via Penguin)
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 one hundred 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 an 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.
I picked up Saturn Run from the library the other day because it looked like it would be a fun read and the sort of hard sci-fi that I like. I'm not a fan of the variety that relies on quantum mechanics or a PHD in theoretical physics. I like the kind where the characters are forced to push themselves and their technology to their limits in order to survive and achieve their goals. That's why I want to read The Martian, Red Mars (and the trilogy in general), and similar stories.

I like how this alien starship was discovered by accident, Basically, the orbital telescope that spots it receives a camera upgrade and as part of the process, takes a bunch of pictures of Saturn to test them out and make sure everything is running correctly. This Caltech intern who is a total rich boy slacker makes the discovery while going through the pictures. Oh and it turns out that he's not just some richie rich slacker, but a black ops soldier who is in hiding because of a $15 million bounty on his head. Given that Saturn Run is co-written by a thriller/suspense writer, this shouldn't be a huge surprise.

The tech shown so far is interesting, but not spectacular. Self-driving cars appear to be as common as regular cars are now, but that's predictable. Electronic implants seem to be a thing too, so it seems cybernetics is a thing, but again, not a far reach. The story is set in 2066, so the emerging technology of today has a commonplace feel in this not so distant future.

What is interesting is how the United States plans to send a team to this mysterious alien starship. They don't have time to build a ship from scratch, so they instead opt to convert their space station (no idea why the U.S. has its own station or what happened to the ISS) into a spaceship. It's a neat idea and logical, given that the station already has most of what the American crew will need for the journey. All they have to do is swap out modules they don't need for ones that they do and add engines and fuel tanks. Not too keen on the station/ship being rechristened the Richard M. Nixon, though. The name change is largely part of the ruse that the U.S. is attempting, since at this point they're the only country that knows about the alien vessel. The idea is to do the conversion out in the open under the pretense that the United States has suddenly decided to send a ship to Mars to accompany and lend aid to China's planned manned mission (and secret colonization) to the red planet. Going by the above plot summary, the Chinese must find out about the alien ship anyways.

It's good so far.

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