A sci-fi debut tells the story of the first manned mission to Saturn.
In the very near future, the virtuosic but fringe German scientist Derya Terzi—who has spent the last decade trying unsuccessfully to convince the scientific community that there is a white dwarf hidden behind the nearby star Arcturus, the inevitable collapse of which will destroy Earth—turns out to be right. This new existential threat causes a dying American senator to write a letter to the newspapers of the world calling for the private sector to do what he believes NASA no longer can—launch a daring campaign to make humans an interplanetary species: “What we need is a private mission, where failure is not a congressional investigation. A private mission of heroes willing to take immense risks for the greater good of humankind.” Who are those heroes? Terzi, for one, but also Jimmy Egger, an astronaut and Yosemite Valley BASE jumper haunted by apocalyptic visions; Sophia Park, an astrobiologist anxious to puncture the Great Silence and discover extraterrestrial life; Yi Meng, a robotics entrepreneur from Inner Mongolia; and Sergei Lazarev, a cosmonaut and the youngest ever commander of the International Space Station. For the crew of the spaceship Shackleton, the mission is so big it’s almost ridiculous: traveling to Saturn and its moons in search of alien life and potential homes for humanity—and unlike the moon landing, they can’t all expect to make it home alive. Landau’s measured prose is adept at evoking the considerable beauty of the physical world: “The shiny domes of the Paranal Observatory were silhouetted against a sea of clouds below extending past the horizon, burying the Pacific Ocean. The Sun had sunk almost half an hour ago; the sky was a starless palette of light grays to dark violets, a grand drape before the show.” In addition to telling a truly immersive story—and one so realistic that the stakes always feel sky high—the author continues the tradition of sci-fi meant to spur not just the imagination, but action toward a better future as well. He asks readers not simply to seriously consider the utility of space exploration, but to also remember how dangerous the journey will be—and how essential it is to the human condition.
A compelling and affecting tale of humanity’s daring interplanetary steps.