The novel is set in the early 1970s. The primary character is Jerry Stieglitz, a marine biology graduate student at UCLA and part-time science fiction author. He is approached by the CIA to take part in a secret mission. A Soviet submarine had been lost and then discovered by the US. He is told that he will be part of a marine biology cover story for a ship attempting to recover the sub. He jumps at the chance for a well-paying summer stipend and the opportunity to gather research data.
He finds out that the real mission is the retrieval of what appears to be an alien spacecraft. A specially built ocean research ship travels to the North Pacific to find the spacecraft. The crew struggles to retrieve the vessel and find themselves faced with a first-contact situation.
Their ship is surveilled on and off by a Russian vessel, causing tensions to rise. Stieglitz is not always comfortable with the secrecy around the project or the longer-term goals of the CIA.
I enjoyed the 10+ hours I spent reading this 279-page alternate history novel. I have been a fan of books by Mr. Turtledove for many years. Among his recent novels that I have read are The House of Daniel, Bombs Away, Fallout, and Through Darkest Europe. This story is a bit slow but very engaging. I hope to see a sequel in the near future. The chosen covert is very eye-catching. I give this novel a rating of 4.5 (rounded to 5) out of 5.
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