SATURNALIA by Grant Callin.

Published paperback, Baen, January 1986.

There are times when it pays to have a blog! Last year I did one of my Have You Overlooked columns about this author who’d had a very low output of very high quality – and in that I mentioned I didn’t have the earlier of his two books. I had A Lion on Tharthee, but not SaturnAlia. At the end of Overlooked, I said if anyone had a spare copy at an affordable price I love to have one. And now I have. To my great delight, the author himself saw the article, emailed me, and next thing, I had a copy of a book I’d wanted for a couple of decades. Not only that, he also sent a number of sketches related to the book, and a gorgeous colour copy of the picture that inspired the book. Saturnalia arrived here in a Monday’s mail and I read it in great gulps over the course of some hours. And it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Two things struck me as I read. The first was that despite LION having been Book two, I’d not found I needed to have read SaturnAlia to understand and follow events. However having read LION first and then reading SaturnAlia, I think I enjoyed it the more, being already familiar with the characters. The other thing was that despite both books having quite a lot of science and mathematics involved, (and I’m one of those according to Robert Heinlein who aren’t quite human because they don’t understand the higher forms of math) I still throughly enjoyed both books. It takes a very good author to fill a book with hard science and make someone like me who can’t understand most of that, still love the book.

So in SaturnAlia Professor Kurious Whitedimple is teaching Archaelogy at Spacehome University when he receives a demand that he report to the SpaceHome President. He does so to find himself immediately embroiled in what could have been a lethal accident, and a fast trip into space to investigate a non-human artifact that has been discovered on Iapetus. There he finds that the artifact is one of a number of them scattered across several portions of the Solar System, he is introduced to Junior Badille, one of the most fascinating characters I’ve read in 60+ years of reading, and embarks on an epic attempt to beat Earth to the artifacts. There is old-fashioned skulduggery, Machiavellian machinations not the least of them by the Professor and a very satisfying ending, that managed both a comfortable rounding-off for the book, while also leaving sufficient ends for the next book to hook on to and continue the story.

It’s going to be one of my enduring ‘literary’ regrets that while there could have been a third book, Baen chose not to publish one. Why, I have no idea, This duo were so well-written that I’m sure they sold well, and a third book would have brought the on-going themes of First Contact and vicious Spacehome/Earther politics to a really satisfying conclusion. Frankly I wanted more after I’d read the second book, now I’ve read both first and second books, I feel that the publisher cheated me out of that third book. Maybe if some of us write to Baen and ask, we may get it. If not, well, some authors in this position have eventually published via one of the e-book sites.

(I note that at least I know Mr. Callin hasn’t died. In the case of author, Lorna Freeman, currently generating much speculation, (and who is one of my other ‘literary’ regrets) we don’t even know that. She wrote three brilliant fantasies in The Borderlands series. The fourth, listed as The Reckoning Flames, was said to be in progress over 2010, but in January 2011 the author dropped completely off the map. Her blogsite was never used again, Roc, her publisher seems to know nothing, and there is now speculation that Lorna Freeman may not have been her real name and that she died in early 2011. However it was clear from her blog comments over 2010, that of the fourth book she must have written half if not more – and have an outline or notes on the intended ending. Readers are asking why IF the author died the publisher has not obtained that partial ms and had another writer complete it. Happily Mr. Callin is in the position to write the third book. Now all us writers have to do, is persuade Baen to offer him a contract and once the book is submitted, to publish it. Pleeeeeease!


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    • C. on 22 August 2014 at 22:26

    About two months ago I left a comment on Baen’s website asking about the possibility of both Saturnalia and ALOT both being released as ebooks. I still have my paperbacks, but my eyes aren’t improving with age and reading on a tablet has real advantages for me. I also thought that each book stood on its own but that a third would have not made the books better, but would have offered an opportunity to develop some ideas more fully and wind up the series or offer some new places for it to go. If you want to write to Baen they have a feedback option on

    • Howard E. Miller on 10 August 2015 at 12:29

    I wonder if Grant Callin is aware that a crater on Ceres appears to have a curious white dimple.

    • lyn on 10 August 2015 at 16:57

    I’ve asked

    • GDC on 12 August 2015 at 20:12

    No, I haven’t yet seen any of the Ceres pics. I got the inspiration for Kurious’ name from a USGS map of Iapetus which showed Hamon Crater as white-dimpled——probably as a result of low resolution and/or sun angle; back in the mid-1980’s the only pictures available to the USGS were those taken by Voyager (V GER to all you die-hard Trekkies).
    By the way, Howard, how did you ever find Lyn’s website?

    • Brian on 30 November 2015 at 20:40

    Probably much as I did when I tried to find the sequel to Saturnalia online. I had run across it in a used bookstore some years ago, as I enjoyed Saturnalia greatly, but not wanting to be encumbered with parcels, I did not buy it at that point, and when I returned two hours later, it was gone. Searching for the author resulted in the name of the second book, but not knowing whether it was the sequel or a separate entity, I hunted down more information on it, which led me here.

    My copy of A Lion on Tharthee was found at a very useful site, and will be here in a couple of weeks. I look forward to it greatly.

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