Heart of the Comet
Reviewed date: 2005 Dec 14
The mission: rendezvous with Halley's Comet, take up residence on the icy rock, and fit the comet with engines. Then spend most of the 76-year round trip in deepsleep, an experimental cryogenics technology. When the comet nears Earth again, use the engines to shift its orbit permanently near Earth, enabling easy access to mine the comet for its resources.
If the crewmen of Halley's Comet survive and succeed, they will have given Earth a gift: the technologies (deepsleep and comet-steering) needed to reach the stars.
Of course trouble starts right away. The crew of several hundred is divided between genetically-enhanced Percells and genetically normal Orthos. The Percells think themselves a sort of Ubermenschen, a better breed of human; the Orthos are suspicious of the Percells and accuse them of plotting a takeover. Expedition leader Carl Osborn (a Percell) soon finds himself the leader of actively warring factions.
Meanwhile, expedition doctor Saul Lintz has his hands full fighting a series of full-borne disease epidemics that decimate the crew and leave them dangerously undermanned. His lover, computer whiz Virginia Herbert, creates a stochastic computer whose computing power far outstrips anything available elsewhere, which she uses to assist Saul.
As if that were not enough, political changes on Earth result in a government openly hostile to the Halley mission, even to the point of trying to sabotage the mission.
All in all a decent book, if a bit dull at times.