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Rogue Star
Michael Flynn
Tor Books, $25.95 US/$35.95 Canada
Hardcover, 446 pages
Publication date: April 1, 1998

Rogue Star
Michael Flynn
Michael Flynn lives in Easton, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Nanotech Chronicles, In the Country of the Blind and Firestar.

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A review by Marc Goldstein

With no less than two Hollywood blockbusters coming out this summer dealing with the subject of giant asteroids colliding with Earth, Michael Flynn's Rogue Star finds itself in an ideal position to ride the asteroid zeitgeist. In fairness to the author, the danger of asteroid strikes is only one of the themes he takes on in this dense novel of interweaving story threads.

A sequel to the critically-praised Firestar, Rogue Star features returning characters from the earlier novel including powerful, progressive-minded corporate chairman Mareisa Van Huyten. Van Huyten suffers from recurring nightmares of gigantic meteorites smashing into earth. To combat her fears, she covertly initiates a massive project to surround earth with a ring of satellites armed with lasers powerful enough to vaporize any incoming object. Only Van Huyten and her inner circle are aware of the satellites' true purpose, but the President of the United States recognizes their potential. He threatens to shut down the project unless Van Huyten agrees to use the orbital weapons to help stop a politically embarrassing war in the Balkans by bombarding ground targets.

While Van Huyten contemplates the President's "proposal," she must also fend off attacks from a variety of enemies: Ed Bullock, a rival tycoon with a reactionary political agenda, Phil Albright, the leader of liberal political action group called The People's Crusade, and Roberta "Styx" Carson, Albright's girl Friday and lover. An award-winning poet who received a scholarship under a Van Huyten mentorship program, Styx resents her former benefactor, whom she sees as a symbol of corporate manipulation and avarice.

Meanwhile, the world watches the progress of the Far Trip mission, a manned space expedition to a distant asteroid. Enigmatic clues discovered on the asteroid's surface may provide evidence justifying Van Huyten's nightmares.

Another subplot follows the story of blue-collar everyman Eddie "Flaco" Mercado. Flaco leaves his pregnant wife behind on Earth to become an apprentice rigger working in orbit, assembling Van Huyten's space station. Honest, honorable Flaco grows suspicious when a section of the station is sealed off by mysterious military men and struggles with his conscience over whether to blow the whistle.

In Rogue Star Flynn imagines a 21st Century that is neither uptopic nor dystopic, but on the verge of tumbling one way or the other. Flynn weaves his multiple story threads with an eye toward the behind-the-scene machinations of politicians and big businessmen striving to seize control of mankind's destiny. Flynn has an ear for the jargon-heavy speech that becomes increasingly natural as technology permeates our everyday lives. His rich language evokes the look, the sound, and the feel of a future both recognizable and alien with artless realism (though some readers may find it inaccessible at first.)

There's not much real political debate going on as the characters fall too neatly into stereotypes: Van Huyten is a progressive visionary; Bullock is reactionary to the point of fascism; the People's Crusade activists are naïve liberals; and the President is a bipartisan opportunist. However, moral compromise touches all the characters equally and Flynn clearly sympathizes with each of his characters, no matter how corrupt their motives appear on the surface.

Styx emerges as the novel's most complex character. Her personal vendetta against Van Huyten ignites some of the story's most emotionally charged exchanges. She is a bitter, angry young woman, obsessed with revenge, yet beneath her defensive layer of hostility stirs the latent desire to escape out from under the black cloud of her rage. The "rogue star" of the title refers literally to the giant asteroids of Van Huyten's nightmares, but for Styx, the poet, rogue star is a metaphor for those people and events which impact our lives and change us forever.

Apparently planned as the middle chapter of a trilogy, Rogue Star consequently leaves many of the issues it broaches unresolved. Nevertheless, Flynn's vision is powerful because it captures the paradox of anxiety and anticipation we feel toward the future. All the players in the novel's high-stakes game of conspiracy are driven by an almost hysterical sense of urgency, for the prize is control of the future itself. And Flynn's future is vast ocean of limitless horizons and claustrophobic fears, simultaneously awesome and overwhelming, teetering on the precipice.

Copyright © 1998 by Marc Goldstein

Marc edits the SF Site's Role-Playing Game Department. He lives in Santa Ana, California with his wife, Sabrina, and their cat, Onion.

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