In the Ocean of Night
The Walmsley family had moved from England to the United States so Nigel could grow up to be an astronaut. His dream is realized and in 2019 he is now approaching an asteroid that is on a path to strike Earth. His partner remains in the capsule as he approaches the asteroid to plant a bomb on it. Only something isn't right. One small part of the asteroid doesn't look correct. Nigel gets closer and is able to get close enough to determine that the asteroid had been manufactured. He and his partner have a chance to explore the dead alien object before it is ultimately destroyed. But little is learned about it.
Fifteen years later an older Nigel is working at JPL when another object enters the Solar System. It remains mostly hidden by Jupiter and its moons but seems to be echoing or emitting radio signals identical to the observation station examining the red giant. Is this object another asteroid reflecting the signals or is it something from another place in the universe? He has settled with the woman he loves and is getting to old for space although he maintains his fitness and astronaut's qualifications. Yet this object pulls his attention. This is the type of work he has always loved and it looks like there may be some new vistas still to discover in his lifetime.
In the Ocean of Night is good, traditional space exploration fare. Benford sets up a realistic future that has held fairly firm in the 30 or so years since this book was first published. Walmsley is a flat character that comes close to feeling real when with Alexandria. By the last third of the book, though, the tale gets confusing. The story line is fairly straightforward but the overall sense of what is happening isn't clear. I understood what had happened with the final resolution yet I still was left scratching my head going "huh?" Although it doesn't quite come to life, the book is readable and enjoyable. I have the sequel sitting in Mt. Bookpile. Perhaps it will help clear up some of my confusion.
Notice: Strong sexual content
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