Eric Hoffer Book Awards First Place for Commercial Fiction
Visionary and satiric. Two astronomers discover an asteroid: Death is possible -- will it hit? Strong doses of romance, science, religion and sex.
From IndieReader Reviews:
Two astronomers discover an asteroid on a potential collision course with Earth.
Harris Mitchel and Diana Muse are old friends and scientific rivals, but when they jointly discover a new asteroid, which they name Baby, their lives are upended for good. Harris’s wife Jennifer is growing increasingly frustrated with his dedication to work over marriage. A fundamentalist minister with money troubles hopes to boost his ministry by taking public exception to Mitchel’s advocacy of science as a new frontier and a new inspiration -- and a conservative radio personality is stoking the fight for his audience’s amusement. A New Age community views Mitchel as a new prophet. But the stakes are higher than any of them realize, since Baby appears to be on a collision course with Earth. Can Harris and Diana manage to save the world as well as their own personal lives?
The Darkest Side of Saturn manages to play with the religion-science divide in a truly thought-provoking and entertaining fashion. Mitchel’s inspired and dramatic view of science and discovery as the meaning and purpose of human existence is shown not only from his perspective, but refracted through the viewpoints of others, whether Diana’s intelligent pragmatism, the cynical what’s-in-it-for-me attitude of politicians and administrators, the angry fundamentalist reaction of the Rev. Farnsworth, or the mystical, but somewhat scatterbrained, devotion of his New Age true believers. The writing is both poetically lyrical and driven, full of energy and force, especially when the topic is either science or sex. Rapier-sharp verbal fencing and a snarky, witty sense of humor brighten the book. The romance is feisty, vigorous, and sensual, with electricity vividly present from the beginning of the novel. The ending offers a fascinating perspective on the whole, combining both scientific awe and mystical philosophy in a new and intriguing way.
The Darkest Side of Saturn is a mischievous, playful, and intelligent look at human consciousness, science, religion, inspiration and truth.
The novel is extraordinary, a fusion of fanaticism and hard science, the visionary and the profane, the obstinately secular and prophetic religion, a union of two streams of metaphysics and literature which flow into a sea of overwhelming consequence. It has the visionary sprawl of Baxter, Macauley, Stross, in an unromanticized view of religious process which refracts Sinclair Lewis' ELMER GANTRY. An impressive work which coming to terms with the menacing grace of religious exploration can stand with James Blish's A CASE OF CONSCIENCE or Walter Miller's CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ as serious uncompromising statement. Most impressive. And to its benefit and mine, utterly accessible. Humanity prime.
This extraordinarily well-crafted and deeply thought-provoking novel about a scientist who discovers an asteroid on a collision course with Earth is nothing short of a science fiction tour de force; a courageous and visionary work that is comparable in thematic power to Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s Hugo Award-winning novel A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Set largely in 1997, the story revolves around Harris Mitchel, an overworked engineer employed at Advanced Technology Laboratory in Southern California, who—along with coworker Diana Muse-Jones—detects a massive asteroid two miles wide that, if their calculations are correct, will collide with Earth in 16 years. But when Mitchel goes public with the information in an attempt to somehow avert the potential looming disaster, he is met with contempt and disbelief, from a dangerously fanatical preacher and his followers to a loudmouth radio personality to the president of the United States himself.
Disregarding the science behind Mitchel’s claim, the media instead focuses on his possible affair with the attractive Muse-Jones, and soon the engineer is demonized by countless religious followers who believe he is “the grand prophet of doom.” As his personal life crumbles before his eyes, he perseveres even though no one seems to care. But readers who think they know where the novel is going are in for a jaw- dropping, unforgettable literary experience!
To classify this novel as simply science fiction would be a grand disservice: It’s an apocalyptic thriller, a powerful romance, a cautionary tale about religious fanaticism, and, above all else, a disturbingly insightful self-examination of humankind and our apparent decline into a society powered by apathy, ignorance, and intolerance.
In the introduction to the 2006 reissue of Miller, Jr.’s 1959 post-apocalyptic masterwork, Mary Doria Russell describes A Canticle for Leibowitz as a novel that will change all those who read it. The same can be said for The Darkest Side of Saturn.
This is an instant classic.