by Michael Flynn
With Rogue Star, even more than with his previous works, Michael Flynn has joined the forefront of the ranks of practitioners of hard science fiction. His depictions of life on a space station construction crew rival Allen Steele's and his loving depiction of a deep space mission to an asteroid are a match for Stephen Baxter. If I'm comparing Flynn to Baxter and Steele, it is only because those authors are more prolific that Flynn.
Rogue Star is a sequel to Flynn's novel Firestar and picks up shortly after the earlier novel ends. While Firestar was the story of Mariesa van Huyten, who continues figure prominently in Rogue Star, the character who really steals the novel is Mariesa's former protege-turned-antagonist, Roberta Carson.
Like Mariesa, Roberta suffers from her own obsession, notably the feeling of betrayal and abandonment. Ignored by her mother, Roberta turned to Mariesa in the first book, only to turn her back on Mariesa when she discovered that Mariesa was "using" her. In Rogue Star, Roberta looks at everyone, from Mariesa, to Phil Albright to Simon Fell to see how they are using people, the ultimate in dishonesty in Roberta's mind. Innever seems to occur to Roberta that she, too, might be using people.
Although at times Roberta's character almost descends into a caricature of political activists, Flynn always manages to pull back before he makes her too two-dimensional. Because of this, the reader is able to maintain sympathy for Roberta, as well as the other characters who populate the novel.
Many of the characters from Firestar make appearances in Rogue Star, although only Forrest Calhoun plays a sizable role as the leader of an expedition to a Near Earth asteroid which Mariesa is behind. Flynn adds a new dimension to his universe with the asteroid expedition and results which may indicate the existance, in the past or present, of alien life.
In many ways, Flynn lucked out with the timing of the release of this novel. Mariesa's obsession, Near Earth asteroids and the possibility of a collision, is extremely timely as the novel was released within a week of the announcement that an asertoid was likely to strike Earth in 2028. Although the calculations behind that prediction turned out to be incorrect, it only serves to drive home the fact that organizations such as SkyWatch may prove vital to the continuing existance of the human species.
Rogue Star is the middle novel of a series, but it does not read like one. A reader can begin with Rogue Star and understand enough of what happened before the novel started without feeling lost. Similarly, although Flynn has left several loose ends to be collected and tied up in the third book in the series, he has done so in a way which permits the reader to put Rogue Star down without feeling as if they are been left high and dry waiting for the final book in the trilogy to be published.
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