by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Edited by David G. Hartwell
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765381958
Date: 03 November 2015 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The solar system and galaxy are incredibly vast. An interstellar visitor will change human views of their place in the universe that has developed over the years. Powers will rise and war looms but the actions of a few may change humanity forever.
Research is the lifeblood of scientists. Those without a name must go to great lengths to get noticed. Dr. Alayna Wong is on the moon at a remote base in order to gain the use of the equipment there when it isn't being used by others. She finds and tracks an unknown comet that may be her ticket.
Christopher Tavoian is a captain of space shuttles prepared for the coming wars for resources. When the comet that Dr. Wong is tracking is discovered to be much more, Captain Tavoian is dispatched on a mission to get there quickly to learn what secrets he can and make sure that the North American Union shares in the secrets of the Solar Express. This mission will take him to the end of his space career as humans can only spend a finite amount of time in space.
The knowledge that can be gained by studying the Solar Express could be substantial and all of the space born groups want to have a piece of the action. The groups that arrive at the alien craft are willing to risk everything to unlock the secrets. Their decisions put them at great risk.
Solar Express is a stand-alone novel. There is no barrier to entry for readers. Anyone that enjoys a rousing tale of action and adventure will enjoy this tale. As I read Solar Express, I was definitely reminded of some of the scenes in the Rama series by Arthur C. Clark. There is also a vibe of classic space adventure with a puzzle waiting to be solved and human nature and curiosity is as great a threat as the natural forces and rival nations. Beyond the space race are the fundamentals of human nature. Over a hundred years ago, Leo Tolstoy asked, "How Much Land is Enough?" This question still looms as Captain Tavoian makes his own decision related to how long he can stay with the Solar Express.
Over the summer I had a chance to talk with the author at the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane Washington. We talked about the novel for a few minutes. One of the things he was very proud of was that the science is accurate. The thing I noted in return was that the science was accessible. I do not have a science background but I was able to follow the action and the science related material did not throw me out of the story or leave me confused.
L.E, Modesitt, Jr. is best known for his epic fantasy novels. His Recluce series has a dedicated fan base. It is easily forgotten that he has a significant body of Science Fiction novels that allow him to explore science and ethics in a different realm. Although not as popular as his fantasy works, his science fiction ranks up there with Ben Bova, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle.