My publisher is currently marketing The Solar Sea as book 4 of the Old Star/New Earth series. In a way that’s a misnomer and in a way it’s reasonably accurate.
When The Solar Sea opens, humans have all but given up on space travel. They do have industrial complexes on the moon, but they haven’t gone any further. Young Thomas Quinn dreams of building a solar sail that can traverse the solar system, but Jerome Quinn, his father, tells him to set his dreams aside. There’s nothing to be gained by exploring the solar system.
Fast forward about a decade and two things happen at once. Whales all around the Earth have changed their songs overnight and particles that can travel through time are discovered orbiting Saturn. Suddenly Jerome Quinn sees a reason to build a solar sail. He assembles a team of the best and brightest to travel on the craft and learn about the time particles.
The reason I say it’s a misnomer to call The Solar Sea book 4 of the Old Star/New Earth series is that it’s not a sequel to Heirs of the New Earth. The action in The Solar Sea is set several hundred years before the action of the Old Star/New Earth trilogy. That said, the book is set in the same universe. It tells how humans finally got into space and met the Titans and Rd’dyggians of the Old Star/New Earth books.
The Solar Sea is the first novel I ever tried to write on my own. I started it during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I had been inspired by a story in the Planetary Society’s newsletter about solar sails. I envisioned a story about people setting out aboard a solar sail bound for Saturn. I made it about halfway through the first draft before the summer ended. As time progressed and my writing matured, I wasn’t very impressed with what I had written and I simply threw it in the trash.
I made another attempt at writing The Solar Sea in the mid-1990s while working on Children of the Old Stars. That version became mired down in details and again, I didn’t make it very far. I finally sat down and wrote the novel in 2004, when my publisher challenged me to write something for National Novel Writing Month. By that point, it had been in my head for about two decades and it just flowed out.
The novel expresses some of my frustration that enthusiasm for human space flight has waned since I was a kid. It also expresses much of my love of science. It was always meant to be a grand adventure that gave the young and young-at-heart a glimpse of the other worlds of our solar system and addressed the fact that no matter how much we think we know about the universe, there may yet be surprises.
There is a website devoted to The Solar Sea at http://thesolarsea.com.
You could choose to read The Solar Sea as your introduction to the Old Star/New Earth series, or you could read it after you’ve finished, in order to see how the world of today became the future I envisioned. Either way, if you would like to set out on a journey through the solar system, The Solar Sea is available: