Volume 16, Number 3, SEASON YEAR

Rogue Star

By Michael Flynn

Tor, April 1998, ISBN #0-312-86136-2, $25.95
Reviewed by Lynn Maners

The multiple interweavings of plot and motivations in Rogue Star seems to suggest that this installment, the sequel to Flynn’s popular Firestar, is to be the center of at least a trilogy, if not the second installment in a tetralogy.

The plot involves Mariesa van Huyten and her iron-willed endeavor to push humanity into (free) space in order to establish the Earth defending Prometheus asteroid killer project (in a summer of spacial impact disaster movies, this seems quite timely!) Events in space and on Earth create a question as to whether this goal can be achieved. Much of the plot development in the novel revolves around the advancement or frustration of this agenda. In this novel, story lines from the previous novel are advanced and a new twist is introduced with serious implications for future developments.

Rogue Star opens with a three man crew on a long journey to asteroid 1991JW, and the book alternates between action in space and on earth and the ways in which events in these places influence one another. Meanwhile, back on Earth, we follow political action, as the President of the United States attempts to divert the Prometheus LEO to a Star Wars platform, while Mariesa’s once protege and now enemy, Roberta, the soi disant poet Styx, seeks to add her energy to a People’s Campaign against free space, even as a third government faction seeks to bring all of space under government control.

Alternating developments on earth with developments in space, the astronaut team arrives on 1991JW and discovers what appear to be evidence of alien activity, including some form of writing scratched into the surface, which the Russian cosmonaut then proceeds to surreptitiously abrade, on the theory that it’s better for mankind to live in ignorance that have proof of extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Closer to home, evidence accumulates that some asteroids have been nudged into earth impact orbit. Is it evidence of alien meddling or...? The politico-economic campaign against Prometheus crests in an unsuccessful orbital attack on LEO, while in the boardroom Mariesa resigns as the director of her creation.

The final scene finds the asteroid team returning to LEO, surveying the damage and recognizing that, in a sense, the world they’ve returned to is not the one they left.

Libertarians will enjoy the finely crafted background of ideas which inform much of this novel.

Although the main ideological battle between libertarian space and government space is foregrounded, aided by good traditional s/f plotting and well crafted writing involving interesting characters, this is enhanced by the kind of realistic backgrounding which (as I have argued in other reviews) is the mark the best libertarian novels.

Instead of hitting the reader over the head with our ideas, Flynn often presents libertarian ideas in the context of an “as-lived” life, i.e. the novel’s troy ounce currency and an explanation of the Italian variant of fascism both appear in a natural context, not as diatribe or exposition.

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