A grim, sprawling, mechanical rehash of the "alien object approaches Earth" notion (cf. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama), with the emphasis not on the alien object but on the various power groups struggling to derive political and technological advantage from the encounter. After orbiting Jupiter, the bleeping alien heads towards Earth, obliging the rival American and Russian investigators to join forces under UN auspices. The action (mostly talk) moves from New England via Kwajalein and Tyuratam into space, and involves: unsmiling Keith Stoner (astrophysicist, astronaut, karate expert), who intends to reach the alien ship (for so it appears to be) first; his Russian opposite number, kindly Kirill Markov (linguist, cryptanalyst, philanderer); Maria, Markov's repulsive and overbearing KGB wife, whose job is to stop Stoner; sexy computer programmer Jo Camarata, whose efforts in bed on Stoner's behalf cause numerous complications; stopovers for politicking and plotting at the White House, Kremlin, and Vatican; and a host of walk-on extras. Among Bova's unavailing efforts to inject some tension are the activities of a brainwashed double agent controlled by Maria, a Kremlin leadership crisis, a drug-crazed assassin, plus a sabotaged supply rocket. And the final revelations, as Stoner in a Russian spacecraft intercepts and boards the alien, are equally banal. Hardworking but bland, with lots of conventional-thriller vices and few sf virtues.