My life in outer space

Cradle of Saturn – James P Hogan (1999)

Cradle of Saturn

‘”THAT PLANET HAS NO RIGHT TO BE THERE!”

Among the Saturnian moons, farsighted individuals, working without help or permission from any government, have established a colony. They call themselves the Kronians, after the Greek name for Saturn. Operating without the hidebound restriction of bureaucratic Earth, the colony is a magnet, attracting the best and brightest of the home world, and has been making important new discoveries. But one of their claims – that they have found proof that the Solar System has undergone repeated cataclysms, and as recently as a few thousand years ago – flies in the face of the reigning dogma, and is under attack by the scientific establishment.
Then the planet Jupiter emits a white-hot protoplanet as large as the Earth, which is hurtling sunwards like a gigantic comet that will obliterate civilization…’

Blurb from the 2000 Baen Books paperback edition.

Landon Keane is a scientist, working on advanced nuclear-powered propulsion systems and at the start of the novel upstages a US rocket launch when his own craft literally runs rings around it and zips off to dock at a space station.
Decades before, a group of idealists left Earth and settled on a moon of Saturn where they have an essentially non-capitalist communist society where everyone works toward the common good.
The Kronians, as they are called, set off for Earth after Jupiter vomits forth a planet-sized ball of matter which immediately sets off for the inner system.
Earth’s scientific establishment refuses to accept The Kronians’ findings which indicate that Athena, as the protoplanet has been named, will not follow the course which Earth scientists predict. Soon afterwards it is confirmed that Athena is heading on a course which will bring it close to Earth and therefore cause untold destruction.
Meanwhile, Keane’s nemesis, Professor Voler, is plotting a scheme to kidnap the Kronian delegation and escape on their ship.
The plot is a fairly standard affair and, with all due respect to Hogan, the effects of the protoplanet’s passing was done to far better effect in ‘When Worlds Collide’ some seventy years before.
Hogan has to be credited however with his examination of a rather unorthodox and one would imagine unpopular branch of scientific theory, based on the work of Immanuel Velikovsky. Some of the arguments put forward seem quite plausible.
Keane’s love interest in the novel is Vicki, a woman bringing up her gifted son Robin alone. Robin (who is no more than a plot device to expound Fortean theories) has worked out that dinosaurs could not have existed in Earth’s gravity since they would have collapsed under their own weight. It is suggested, following archaeological discoveries among Saturn’s moons, that Earth was once a satellite of Saturn and was knocked out of orbit at some point in the past. This apparently explains the dinosaurs since the proximity of Saturn would have negated some of the planet’s gravity, although it’s not explained how anything could have survived when the planet moved from Saturn (which may have provided heat at the time) all the way to Earth’s habitable orbit.
One has to say however that Hogan throws in lots of proper science to make the whole thing seem like common sense.
There’s also a handy list of further reading at the back for those who would like to know more about Velikovsky and his work.
It’s an enjoyable enough read, although the characters are a tad one-dimensional. One would also like to have learned more of the Kronians who have established what is essentially a Communist Technocracy within the rings of Saturn.

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