Final installment of Flynn's near-future space-exploration trilogy (Rogue Star, 1998, etc.). Following plenty of dubious and perhaps deliberate finagling, the global economy has crashed, leaving the space program on its uppers. Problem is, a huge asteroid called the Bean is on a collision course for Earth. Mariesa van Huyten and her allies attempt to jumpstart the economy with bond issues, but reactionary politico Terry McRobb blindly blocks their efforts despite the danger. Only when violence takes out the contenders do matters improve and, finally, an expedition to rendezvous with the Bean gets under way. The Bean contains alien mechanisms, these apparently activated by a previous visit, including massive engines: a collision with Earth clearly is intentional. Why, though, would a bunch of long-vanished aliens want to bombard Earth? Flynn's cast of astronauts, scientists, space operations personnel, and movers and shakers, many familiar from previous installments, attempts to find answers and solutions. Then worse news arrives: another asteroid is heading for Earth. Still to come: heroics, discoveries, and the dawn of a new era.
As before, Flynn's very strong on politicking, power struggles, and the nuts and bolts of space exploration. What's lacking is originality.