by Michael Flynn
Falling Stars is the final novel in Michael Flynn’s near-future series about the defense of the Earth against an asteroidal collision. While the plot of the novel may well stand on its own, the characters only truly shine when they are compared to their depiction in the earlier novels. This isn’t to say that Falling Stars doesn’t stand on its own, merely that as the summation of the series, it becomes a stronger novel.
Over the course of the earlier books, Flynn has introduced numerous characters, ranging from Mariesa van Huyten, the doyen and patron of the world’s revitalized space program, to Jacinta Rosario, a second-generation cadet whose goal is to become a pilot. These characters, their talents, and their relationships with each other, form the crux of this novel which could have merely been another disaster story.
The action takes place in the years immediately after the discovery and announcement of an asteroid, called “The Bean” which is on a collision course for the Earth. There are indications that “The Bean” has been guided by an alien intelligence, indications which are confirmed when other asteroids begin to converge on the Earth as well. Flynn’s heroes must not only overcome the aliens, but also other humans with differing agendas and simple human nature.
Building on the relationships examined in the earlier books, Flynn includes a wide range of alliances which may not have seemed likely, from Roberta Carson’s link to Mariesa van Huyten to the touchy partnership of Jimmy Poole and Chase Coughlin.
However, Falling Stars is not merely a book about relationships. It builds on the hard science themes of space exploration and computer programming which were introduced in previous books. There are plenty of nuts and bolts in Falling Stars to satisfy any hard science fiction aficionado while completely avoiding falling into the category of space opera. In addition, Flynn adds a good measure of economic theory as the world is faced with a major recession at a time when investment in space funding is required.
One of the drawbacks of Falling Stars, and the earlier books for that matter, is addressed by Flynn in his forward. Real life has begun to catch up with the series, which begins in 1999 and runs through 2023. It is even more clear now than in was when Firestar was published in 1996 that the world will not be able to achieve the type of extraplanetary fleet Flynn describes. Other technological advances, on the other hand, may not be as far-fetched.
Flynn has published many portions of Falling Stars in Analog over the last few years, which serves to introduce readers who haven’t picked up the novels to the characters. In an interesting choice, he has selected Jacinta Rosario, one of his pricklier characters as the means of introduction. Over the course of the novel, Jacinta does become more sympathetic, but without having her history to build on, she may not be the best introduction to Flynn’s fascinating world and speculations.
Flynn ties Falling Stars to the earlier books in the series by reintroducing many of the characters who have either fallen out of the story or have passed away. He does this in a realistic manner which shows that his characters do not live in a vacuum, but rather have memories of people and events which continue to shape them long after those people are in the past.
The four book series which concludes with Falling Stars deserves to be ranked among the classic science fiction series and should make Michael Flynn's name more well known within science fiction circles.