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The Dragon, an enormous comet, is on a trajectory that will bring it perilously close to an Earth that is still suffering from the scars of a nuclear incident, and from the problems of the Greenhouse Effect. For the optimists – those that remain – it is a sign of change for the better; for others, the comet foreshadows humanity’s final doom.

But to Francis Reese and the hard-pressed astronauts of the depleted space programme, the Dragon presents a third outrageous, yet irresistible possibility – the transformation of a barren world into a new home for the beleaguered peoples of Earth.