To boost waning interest in interstellar travel, a mission is sent into deep space to learn the truth about “moonriders,” the strange lights supposedly being seen in nearby systems. But Academy pilot Valentina Kouros and the team of the starship Salvator will soon discover that their odyssey is no mere public-relations ploy, for the moonriders are not a harmless phenomenon. They are very, very dangerous-in a way that no one could possibly have imagined.
From Publishers Weekly
Set in the 23rd century, this straightforward adventure from Nebula-finalist McDevitt (Omega) explores the immorality of big business and the short-sightedness of the American government in minimizing support for space travel. These destructive forces are held off by the insight and brilliance of individuals such as the influential Gregory MacAllister, editor of a non-partisan journal, The Nation, and Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins, manager of a government-sponsored space-research agency, the Academy. While often on opposite sides of support for the Academy’s research budget, MacAllister and Hutch together uncover and react to evidence that Orion Tours’ CEO, Charles Dryden, is engaged in a massive conspiracy to jump-start his intergalactic tour business. MacAllister unmasks the others supporting Dryden’s faked alien attacks, targeting a physicist who colluded in the hoax. His skepticism about space travel, however, prevents him from seeing the existence of real aliens, something Hutch must pursue at risk to her career. Subtract the “inspirational quotations” and the newspaper headlines appended to some chapters, and what’s left is enough space travel, heroics and speculation about the history of the universe to satisfy most hard SF enthusiasts.
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Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchinson’s fifth adventure opens with the former starship pilot deskbound at the Academy (the twenty-third-century equivalent of NASA), which is facing catastrophic cuts to the space program. In a media campaign led by Hutch’s old friend, acerbic newspaper editor Gregory MacAllister, pundits and politicians alike argue that the program’s money would be better spent on the earthbound threats of global warming and disease. Perhaps not coincidentally, humans everywhere from Earth to Ophiuchi begin witnessing repeated visitations from “moonriders” (apparently alien spherical spacecraft), and they prompt an Academy investigative mission. To humor Hutch and grab a good story, MacAllister joins a spacebound team including a celebrated pilot and a senator’s daughter. When the moonriders apparently redirect a few asteroids to destroy an orbiting hotel and narrowly bypass Earth, suspicions begin to emerge that the moonriders–and certain members of the Academy–may not be what they seem to be. McDevitt’s energetic, character-driven prose serves double duty by exploring Earth’s future political climate and forecasting the potential dangers awaiting humanity among the stars. Carl Hays
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