Near-future deep-space disaster/rescue yarn, gripping and exciting when it--finally--gets going. From the author of Broken Symmetries (1983) and Human Error (1985). Before the exciting stretches, however, readers are in for some dismal slogging through space platitudes as Preuss labors to set things up. We are introduced to NASA's pride and joy, the experimental ship Starfire, and its crew members, in effusive detail. Meanwhile, disgruntled ex-astronaut, exogeology expert and incipient alcoholic Travis Hill is wheeler-dealing and politicking hard to win a place on Starfire's maiden voyage--a trip that will involve the launching of two solar-orbiting satellites plus a rendezvous with an Apollo object (a body that passes inside Earth's orbit). Travis wins his place (bumping one of Starfire's crew in the process), Starfire departs--and the story is at last under way. Thanks to a computer malfunction at the start, the ship is left with insufficient maneuvering fuel. However, all goes well until Travis and company begin to explore Everest, a sort of well-toasted comet. Disaster looms in the form of a deadly solar flare and more problems with the engines. How will our heroes survive the solar flare and Everest's sun-grazing passage? Bury the ship inside the comet! But then how will they escape the solar gravity well? Tension builds and builds as ideas fly thick and fast. Intriguing and satisfying problem-solving for about half, then; but even the most benign readers will be tempted to skip the old-hat plotting and elephantine stereotype-building that goes before.