Far-future alien-contact yarn from astronomer Brotherton (Star Dragon, 2003).
By 2453 a human colony thrives on planet Argo, previously home to warlike aliens who vanished a million years ago, leaving extensive records and functional machines. Space navy Commander Manuel Rusk, exploring one of Argo’s moons, inadvertently sets off a device that causes the sun to shoot fireballs in the planet’s direction. Unless these “Lashings” can be stopped, Argo will die. Help may be found at the Spider Star, deciphered Argonaut records indicate; so Rusk launches an expedition that includes alien-contact expert Frank Klingston, Rusk’s warrior-assistant Sloan Griffin and various smart robots. The Spider Star turns out to be a gigantic alien space station complete with external atmosphere and exotic dark matter at its heart. After docking, the team signals in the Argonaut language and begins to explore. Argonauts attack Frank’s group and whisk the survivors off to an island floating in the atmosphere. Rusk, meanwhile, faces powerful robot-like “hydras” mindlessly intent on chewing up his airship. After various rescue attempts, Frank and Rusk separately fall into the Spider Star’s core, where they will be reborn in young bodies and meet the Spider aliens for a chat.
Solid science and ideas aplenty, but none of the characters act or react with any real intelligence, and it’s deeply unsatisfying that their problems are solved by extraterrestrials rather than by their own efforts.