Thursday, March 6, 2008


Firestar by Michael Flynn was originally published in 1996. My hardcover copy has 573 pages; 573 densely packed pages with narrow margins and small type. This is a hard science fiction story, so it's appeal will be limited to fans of that genre. It's basically a space jockey story but with a woman as a central character. I'm a fan of hard SF and rate Flynn's Firestar, the first in a series, with a 4 for the vision and the sheer depth of the storyline. There are a few minor quibbles I have with Firestar. Flynn used dates, and as my son, Wonder Boy, has pointed out, "There's nothing you'll regret more in SF than setting it in the near future - and giving real dates." Flynn could have got away without using the dates. There were also a few editing mistakes - a couple typos in one case and something else I can't recall right off hand. I actually found the conservative politics in this book refreshing, especially when compared to the normal liberal slant I have to tolerate in author after author. Flynn continues to be an intelligent writer.

From Publishers Weekly at Amazon:
By 1999, well-meaning but misguided liberals, environmentalists and feminists have brought the U.S. economy to a near standstill. The space program is suffocating in red tape. The schools are collapsing. Technological innovation is virtually dead. All of this will change, however, because of one woman with vision, a capitalist with a heart of gold who has dedicated her life to reforming America's schools and to returning humanity to outer space. Over the past three years, a number of talented, politically conservative SF writers have turned their hands to scenarios much like this, among them Poul Anderson, Charles Sheffield and Larry Niven. Now Flynn (In the Country of the Blind, 1990) has produced one of the better books in this budding subgenre. His plot is complex, but it stays on track. His large cast of characters, particularly industrialist Mariesa van Huyten, are generally well drawn; even the villains have depth. Flynn's detailed description of new space technologies is entirely believable, too, though his solutions to current educational problems seem naive. This amalgam of ambitious SF and political agenda, the first in a projected series, may annoy some left-leaning readers, but it's likely to please most fans of thoughtful hard SF.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc
"And more important, though she did not say so, you could not build the future with the rough timber the schools turned out today." pg. 10

"The obsession to telephone in public. Pay phones, car phones, air phones. There ought to be a name for it. Is it just to demonstrate self-importance? he wondered." pg. 33

"Any process can produce defective products and shoddy workmanship. Education is no exception." pg.47

" 'What the hell could be worse than sabotage.'
'Betrayal, Ned. Betrayal.' " pg. 99

" 'Tomorrow?... I didn't come all the way up here to get the brush-off.'
'The lack of planning on your part does not constitute an obligation on mine.' " pg. 230

"The newspeople would go away when some new fascination came along to distract them. The government would go away in November, assuming the polls were right. The special interests, fearful of losing (or eager to grasp) a piece of the action, could be handled. But the nut cases would be showing up soon, and nut cases were forever." pg. 273

" 'I think...that he listens well. You need someone in your life who listens.' " pg. 363

"Assume that the scientists are honest... That's a stretch because scientists are human, like everyone else. They have passions, beliefs; and sometimes those passions intersect their scientific work and...they see what they want to see, like Margaret Mead on Samoa." pg. 499

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