Saturn Run is most definitely hard sci-fi. But it is also a fun, silly and exciting thrill ride. Sometimes it goes a bit overboard in both directions (with the level of scientific detail in the hard sci-fi sections and the breeziness of the comedic situations).
An alien ship is discovered out by Saturn and China and the USA are in a new space race to get to the ringed planet. The main character is Sandy Darlington, the apparently addle-headed scion of a billionaire who discovers the anomaly which leads to the alien ship and for reasons of mostly plot development is added to the crew of the American ship going out to Saturn. Other major characters are Naomi Fang-Christo, captain of the American ship, Rebecca Johansson, the chief engineer who designs a crazy mechanism to propel the ship, Cassandra Fiorella, a journalist documenting the journey, John Clover, a pot-smoking anthropologist specializing in first contact with aliens and Crow, the political operative (i.e. spy) who represents the wishes of the US government. The President, Amanda Santeros plays a pretty significant role in the book. (One interesting feature of the book is that it has a VERY large number of powerful women characters, from the POTUS, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff(!) to the captain of both the US and Chinese ships.)
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but the American and Chinese ships do make it to Saturn and there is considerable intrigue on returning to Earth with the knowledge they gain from interacting with the alien ship there.
Overall, the book is a fun, action-packed, oftentimes silly but scientifically believable thriller based around space flight to Saturn in the NOT too-distant future.
Somewhere between 3.5 to 4 stars.
Title: Saturn Run.
Author: John Sandford and Ctein.
Paperback: 486 pages.
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Date Published: October 6, 2015.
Date Read: April 22, 2017.
OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.5/4.0).