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The Wreck of the River of Stars

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  467 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Michael Flynn has written the best SF in the last decade. His major work was the Firestar sequence, a four-book future history. "As Robert A. Heinlein did and all too few have done since, Michael Flynn writes about the near future as if he'd been there and was bringing back reports of what he'd seen," said Harry Turtledove. Now, in this sweeping stand-alone epic of the spa ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by Tor Books (first published 2003)
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Jennifer Petkus
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading "The Wreck of the River of Stars" because someone on Amazon said it read like Jane Austen and that intrigued me.

The book by Michael Flynn wouldn't automatically make you think of Jane Austen. It's set aboard a former luxury liner the MS The River of Stars that plied the Earth-Mars route on solar sails. But the Farnsworth engine removed the need for sail and the once glorious ship has been turned into a hybrid tramp freighter that retained it MS designation -- Magnetic Sail -- o
Elizabeth K.
I wanted very much to love this book: first, because Eifelheim is one of my favorite books ever, and second, because I think the title is so very great. It just sounds like an awesome book, the River of Stars being the name of a (space) sailing ship.

I was probably ignoring the obvious (in hindsight) fact that this really isn't my thing in the first place. I love the concept -- so the ship was originally a luxury cruise space ship, but now it's outdated so it's been retrofitted with some sort of
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The cover looks magnificent. Flynn is back with a near future tale mirroring the twilight days of the age of sail. “The River of Stars” has long ago furled it’s magnetic sail in favor of a more modern engine. The past glories of the ship are almost forgotten as she plies her trade as a tramp freighter. But an engine failure forces a difficult decision. Her crew want to use the sail to save the ship in a last tribute to her old days of glory.

Incidentally, the story is set in the same universe as
Jim Mcclanahan
Apr 29, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ruled-out
Despite critical acclaim, I found this plodding narrative to be impossible to finish. All character development, no real story.
Jay Glickman
Unless you are a serious devotee of science fiction you've probably never heard of Michael Flynn; I hadn't until a couple of years ago, and I take my science fiction very seriously. He tends to fly beneath the radar, eschewing melodramatic space opera, in favor of highly detailed, very plausible multi-threaded stories, spread out on a very large scale. Unlike many authors of the genre, he publishes only once every several years, and the level of skill, commitment and imagination that goes into e ...more
Jeff Miller
Jan 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not often do I so like the title of a book, but this one really caught my imagination and also gives an idea about the book.

The "River of Stars" is a spaceship that carried both passengers and cargo and flew the routes on magnetic sails. She is long past her glory days and her magnetic sails are an outdated technology and she becomes a hybrid retrofitted ship using new engine designs. Though she is now like a magnificent sailing ship that now runs only on diesel engines.

The fact that the title o
Jamie Collins
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Excellent book! I fell in love with the way Flynn uses words.

This is hard sci-fi, but mostly it's a character study. The author used the Myers-Briggs personality types to create 15 disparate characters and placed them on an interplanetary spaceship - a former luxury cruiser now serving as a cargo freighter.

We observe as they squabble, or make love, or isolate themselves; as they project their own desires and inadequacies onto the motivations of others; as small mistakes and misunderstandings slo
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting to read in terms of the writing itself. The way situations or feelings are described is clever, for example switching subtly between viewpoints of characters between sentences.

The characters have some depth and colour, but more important are the interactions between the characters. It's a novel about a spaceship but really it's about social conflicts in a small ship alone in big space.

The plot arc moves quite slowly so I found it easy to put down. However, I never wanted to leav
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird-fiction
At first glance, this looks like typical hard science fiction. But once you get into it, you realize it's not really about spaceships at all. It's a lovely character study of the crew of a doomed ship--their inner demons, their secret desires, and the odd but curiously touching little community they create. It could just as easily be set on a sailing ship in the 1700s. Flynn is a top-notch writer who uses SF tropes to tell compelling stories about people.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this hard sci-fi novel more than many I've read recently.

Flynn explores many of the themes of space adventure and flips them on their head: a disaster in space, a rag-tag crewing working to fix it, people acting like heroes. But nothing comes out quite right.

Very moving at the end (just like his other great book, Eifelheim).
Connie Hensler
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What an amazing book. Intelligent, complex, shining, heroic and poignant. Hard SciFi - space travel at it's best.
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slow to pick up, but powerful when it does.
Peter Tillman
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
The MSS "River of Stars", the grandest of the great magsail liners, was launched in 2051. But the new Farnsworth fusion thrusters rang the death-knell for the magsails, and the now-obsolete liner was converted to fusion power in 2084. Two decades later, she has become a tramp freighter, bound for Dinwoody Poke, Jupiter space, on what will be her final voyage....

The Middle System -- Mars, the Belt, Jupiter space -- has not developed tidily, and the crew is made up of casualties of the great 21st-
Marthe Bijman
This sci-fi work has been said to have “tour de force character development” and “masterful writing”. I was looking forward to devouring all 480 pages of an interesting proposition – a space ship powered by both Farnsworth nuclear fission engines and sails made of superconducting hoops.
It’s worth noting that neither of the two technologies is new (see notes below on superconductivity and the Farnsworth engine.) How Flynn applies and expands on these concepts as a narrative device, is quite origi

Michael Flynn has written the best SF in the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein of the last decade. His major work was the Firestar sequence, a four-book future history. "As Robert A. Heinlein did and all too few have done since, Michael Flynn writes about the near future as if he'd been there and was bringing back reports of what he'd seen," said Harry Turtledove. Now, in this sweeping stand-alone epic of the spaceways, Flynn grows again in stature, with an SF novel worthy of the master himself.

Lis Carey
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf
The River of Stars used to be one of the grand ships of the space lanes, a luxury magnetic sail passenger liner. Then she got older, and got demoted to carrying colonists to Mars. Then the fusion drive was developed, and The River lost a race, and started losing money, and a fusion drive was installed, and she became, of ficially, a hybrid ship. In reality, the sails and rigging were never used again. Eventually, a consortium bought her to keep her from being scrapped, and she became a tramp fre ...more
A decent story, if a bit plodding at times. I found the oceanic analogies to space to be a bit forced at times though.
Aug 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Flynn's The Wreck of The River of Stars was generally disappointing, though I otherwise have to give the overall effort itself a high mark. His flawed characters were very good, but there were just too many of them, and the veritable catalog of missteps made even before we are dropped into the story, when added to the many catastrophes slowly evolving from page one of the narrative, created a lumbering slow-motion train wreck that unfortunately was just not very gripping until the morbid, moribu ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Years and years ago I remember "A Ship Is Dying" by Brian Callison, a fantastic book about a cargo ship sinking in the North Sea. There were only about half a dozen characters who all abandoned ship in the space of forty minutes; the author sketched them each memorably and effectively and it took about a hundred pages.[return][return]Michael Flynn has done much the same here, though with a dozen or so characters and a timescale of a couple of ...more
Tom King
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think this curious novel will appeal to everyone, but it is definitely worth reading. The writing frequently calls attention to itself because it is full of epigrams, most of them good. Sometimes they are playful: “The girl had all but moved into his libido and set up housekeeping" (106). Sometimes they are serious: “What else is romance but the belief that facts have structure?" (293). These tidbits are great fun, but epigrams are not the best vehicle for character development, and it t ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish
I stalled out on this one about 200 pages into the 600 page book. I was enjoying it well enough, but the pace was very slow and introspective and I didn't have the patience to see how it all played out without skipping to the back of the book, even though I knew pretty much what was going to happen anyway. Not much patience, me. But I knew that this could easily be another couple weeks of reading investment and I didn't want to spend that much time with a tragedy.

The book was apparently based on
May 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the blurb on the cover of this book, this is very much a character-oriented work rather than science fiction-oriented. Yes, the general setting is space, but the real story here is about the crew and passenger and their history and interrelationship, not so much the situation they find themselves in when the ship becomes disabled. By the end of the book, I was constantly reminded of Consider Phlebas by Ian M. Banks in that while Phlebas is science fiction, it was devoted more to the char ...more
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After, say, the first quarter of this book, I felt like Michael Flynn was channeling Wes Anderson for a story about a group of quirky spacers playing out the string on an aging, obsolete starship. When a crisis that threatens everyone's survival arises, will they be able to set aside their histories and conflicts for one last hurrah and prove that just maybe time hasn't passed by The River of Stars completely?

I underestimated Mr. Flynn. This was the first of his books that I'd read, and I soon
Zachary Cochran
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, this is a hard book to describe. It's hard SF, and it's very good hard SF, but it's also a collage of character studies. It's no spoiler to say the ship wrecks (a la Titanic, plus it's in the title), but the Wreck we're really watching is the wreck of all these souls crashing into each other.

It's a great exploration. Some characters are more deeply explored than others, but that's not to the book's detriment. Flynn does more telling than is fashionable, but this gives a window into the th
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: space-voyage
This book starts more than a little slowly. The first hundred pages or so did not do enough to really rope me in. It takes a deliberate pace and introduces each of the numerous characters in turn. I stuck with it though, and I am glad I did. The book really hits its stride in the middle and the characters (that you know a lot about thanks to the slow beginning) begin to struggle with each other and with a series of vicious unforeseen consequences.

The characters are all well described and fleshe
Jamie gave ths 5 stars & I'd read & really enjoyed Flynn's Eifelheim- so checked this out from the library.

This novel wasn't quite as high-rated for me as Eifelheim, IMHO, but has some really good character development; and, despite the apparent spoiler of a title, a compelling story.

I put it on my "sf-tech" shelf, as technology plays an important role in the story. The setting ends up being as much a character as the actual ones - in that respect (and the "sf-tech" element), it remind
Michael Bourgon
Jun 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing character study. The fact that it's set in space in purely coincidental - this is about the characters, their situation, and the slow-motion car crash it turns into. Dark, deep, absorbing. An easy read? Oh, hell no. I'd read it for a while, go read something lighter, then come back to it.

What gets me is the amount of foreshadowing. You can see the train coming. This character assumes people will say no to an order if it's beyond them. This other character assumes that he'll only be g
Sep 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow series of catastrophes over take the crew of a ship at sea, ultimately leading to the crew abandoning ship...

But...the 'ship' happens to be an interplanetary tramp freighter plying the 'seas' between the middle planets of our solar system.

The story could easily have occured in bygone years on a large sailing vessel (the spaceship is in fact a type of sailing vessel). What's important here is not the setting, but the interactions between the ship's crew, a motley collection of rejects and
Kolya Matteo
Flynn indulges himself overmuch—the book can be pretty boring and bombastic, especially in its first two-thirds. It picks up toward the end. The slow pace has a purpose, inculcating an atmosphere of oppressive foreboding. That's fine if you're into that sort of thing, but I am not. I could do without the author's many pronouncements on the nature of true wisdom. And the phrase "x isn't in it", meaning that x is not relevant or not involved, is used way too much.

I read this because I liked Eifel
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Michael Francis Flynn (born 1947) is an American statistician and science fiction author. Nearly all of Flynn's work falls under the category of hard science fiction, although his treatment of it can be unusual since he has applied the rigor of hard science fiction to "softe
More about Michael Flynn...
“The Luna-Ganymede Race went down in history, and the magnetic sail went down to the fusion thruster. Terranova should never have taken the bet, but it was a matter of pride - and prive loves loss above surrender.” 0 likes
“Bad luck was a fact of life and one dealt with it or not.

Good luck, on the other hand, was something one created.”
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