Tor, Apr 2003, 27.95, 480 pp.
Today's technology is tomorrow's junk. For instance, The River of Stars was a luxurious passenger liner that used immense magnetic sails to catch the solar wind. However, the invention of the Farnsworth fusion drive turned the sailing ships obsolete. The River of Stars is the last one still operating as it hauls cargo between Jupiter and the asteroid belt. However, its sails are never used, as they are symbols of the past.
When Captain Hand dies from an illness, Gorgas becomes in charge when an emergency occurs. A small meteor hits the ship destroying two engines and crippling the deceleration process making a safe landing impossible. The only hope to walk away resides in the sails, but navigator Corrigan and sailmaster Satterwaithe know Gorgas and Engineer Bhatterji would never listen especially since the latter insists he can fix the malfunctioning engines. Turning to ancient philosophy of not putting all your eggs in one basket Corrigan and Satterwaithe serendipitously work with the crew of misfits to merge the old with the new in a desperate attempt to survive.
This is science fiction at its best as the audience sees the impact of a radical change in technology on people and industries as has happened throughout history especially the twentieth century (horse driven coaches to cars, etc.). The story line conveys a deep a powerful look at varying technological changes on a crew without slowing down the plot. On top of an action-packed yet cerebral thriller, the cast is fully developed so readers understand the crisis and how everyone will react to it. Flynn has written a winner.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner