SOLAR EXPRESS by L.E. Modesitt Jr.


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Prolific author Modesitt returns to science fiction with a tale of space exploration.

On a version of Earth about a century from now, Dr. Alayna Wong-Grant, a researcher at a remote radio telescope site, discerns a distant object in the sky. Although she initially believes it to be a comet, as it approaches, she finds it’s a massive asteroid, made of nickel and iron. On Earth, resources have dwindled to nearly nothing, and nations jostle for their share of what remains. Capturing and refining this asteroid would ensure the dominance of whoever reaches it first, and the North American Union selects Capt. Christopher Tavoian, Alayna’s friend, for a solo space mission. But as the asteroid races toward our sun, Alayna discovers it’s no naturally occurring phenomenon—whatever’s coming was definitely created by someone, somewhere. Much of the novel unfolds in an almost epistolary style, relaying messages between Alayna on the ground and Tavoian in space, while the alien artifact draws ever closer and begins to affect life on Earth in unexpected ways. Even by the standards of hard science-fiction novels, which cherish the technical aspects of their worlds, every page of this book is heaving with needless details. From the opening paragraph, which recounts a radio telescope’s full capabilities as well as its construction history, to the uninspired and unneeded epilogue, nothing about the world or how it works has been left to the reader's imagination. Even the spaces between chapters are taken over with fabricated news articles which impede the flow of the story far more than they add to it. For all the realistic detail, the people come across as inauthentic, barely human. Despite subplots centering on their families, characters’ inner thoughts go largely unexplored, leaving them to express feelings through a baffling semaphore of facial expressions, such as “she smiled wryly, but fondly” or “she frowned for a moment, then smiled, if ironically.”

For fans only.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8195-8
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2015


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