John Sandford, author of twenty-seven Prey and eight Virgil Flowers novels, joins forces with scifi luminary Ctein to write Saturn Run. Fans of Sandford expecting to find a version of Lucas Davenport in a space suit have been disappointed, since there’s neither a serial killer nor a detective in this particular tale. Hard-core science-fiction fans who come expecting a classic first contact novel likewise face disappointment – Saturn Run is neither a crime serial nor a story of alien encounters.
Instead, a story that began with the sudden appearance of an alien starship in the outer Solar System segued into a futuristic version of a Cold War standoff, though the enemy this time isn’t Soviets – it’s the Chinese. Sandford and Ctein may have taken their cast of characters to the sixth planet, but the action is straight out of a sixties-era spy thriller.
In keeping with current trends in speculative fiction, the authors strive to keep their tale true to the science. While that may please critics with a scientific bent who have long complained about the phony technology of "Star Trek" and similar entertainment, the result is a slow-paced novel with an overabundance of exposition about orbital mechanics and the effects of vacuum. The obligatory violence, sexual tension and spy thrills do little to add excitement.
Perhaps the pendulum of science fiction has swung too far toward science fact. Sandford and Ctein (whoever he is) would be better served by remembering that fiction is about the willing suspension of disbelief. Saturn Run, unfortunately, is more disappointing than not.