Starfire, by Paul Preuss


After a solar flare accident in orbit, Travis is a hero: the first astronaut to bail out of a spacecraft and live. NASA, however, had advised against the bailout—and as punishment for violating orders, Travis is grounded on earth, never to fly again. Then comes Starfire, an experimental spacecraft that could be capable of interstellar flight. Travis fights a desperate political battle to become a crewmember, and his go-it-alone attitude makes for some rough going. Starfire’s planned maiden voyage is to land on an asteroid that is heading toward a close loop around the sun, stay long enough to explore, then return to Earth by way of a gravity boost around Venus. But during the mission, disaster strikes again: the ship is hit by a huge solar flare and must take shelter in the shadow of the asteroid, even while falling ever closer to the sun. The aim of the mission now becomes desperate survival…

I enjoyed Starfire, by Paul Preuss. It does drift into ‘hard’ sci-fi, but over all, it was an easy read, and ‘soft’ sci-fi fans won’t get bored.

There were a few dated references, but that’s to be expected for a thirty-year-old novel. Another aspect that frustrated me was about three or four lengthy flashbacks that just didn’t seem to help the story. I can appreciate the author trying to fill in the back-story to a few characters, but they derailed the story. I found myself angrily swiping pages to get through the boring back-story. On the final flashback, I just skimmed until it was obvious the flashback was over. It seemed almost as if the flashbacks were shoehorned in to reach a word or page count.

I really love the paperback cover. It fits the story perfectly and makes sense during the read. I don’t know if the art didn’t have the proper license, but the new electronic edition art, while it conveys that this is a sci-fi space adventure, just doesn’t work as good as the 1988 cover. (I grin when I see the 80s-style title font.)

I’m not too worried about spoiling a thirty-year-old book, so I’ll say that this space disaster is reminiscent of movies like Armageddon or Gravity.

I’m on the fence on this one in terms of star rating. It’s a great read, but the flashbacks just made me angry. If I did half stars, I’d say 3.5 stars, but for the purpose of Amazon and Goodreads, I’m gonna award it that extra half and say four-stars. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ll like this book.


Writing is most of what Paul Preuss does these days, a nice balance of fiction, freelance science articles, reviews, and commentary. Before any of that he made a living writing and producing documentary films and TV specials. His first love was film and theater, always in concert with a fascination for science. His dad was an air force officer and he grew up in various places; the longest stretch was at Sandia Base in New Mexico. There’s lots more on all this on his website.


About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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