I was really bored by this book. It just didn't move fast enough for me. It takes place a few hundred years in the future when humans have gone to every place they can with the current kind of rockets. All they've found is a bunch of dead civilizations. Politicians are calling for an end to funding for space exploration.
The story follows a bunch of die hard spacies including a couple of has been pilots. They finally get their engine to work and head off for The Cauldron. It seems that all the dead civilizations were hit by mysterious gas clouds that can wipe out all life in a few minutes. The origin is somewhere in The Cauldron. Three quarters of the book is wasted getting to The Cauldron and the rest is anti-climactic muck. Very disappointing.
The thing that bugged me the most about the book was hidden in little throw away "headlines" at the end of some chapters. The book could have done without any of them but a couple were really offensive:
REPORTS OF RELIGIOUS EXECUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST Death Penalty Still in Place for Muslims Who Go Astray Christian Missionary Reported Among Victims World Council Demands Access.
The rest of the world advances but Muslims are barbarians? This is the only group mentioned in such a disparaging way. Bigotry has no place in science fiction unless you're pointing out how wrong it is.