Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: Mercury by Ben Bova.

When I first picked up this novel I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had read his book Orion years ago and didn’t really love it even though I had heard it was sort of a classic. But when I came across this paperback book a while ago I thought I’d give him another chance. I was very interested at the time in reading some science fiction in the harder vein. I wanted to stay away from anything that hinted of epic or space opera for a while. This seemed like a nice addition to a universe Bova was creating among the solar system. For science fiction playing in and among the planets of our own solar system seemed downright cozy.

Well, I had the book on the shelf for a while. I picked it up the other day and read it in about four days during my work commute. I was very impressed. This was a solid story told very patiently with enough twists and deep character development to keep it interesting.

Bova takes his time developing the story in such a plainspoken fashion that you practically forget that he’s dealing in millions of miles between the planet Mercury, a space elevator on planet earth, Mars, a moon base and a cargo ship traveling between earth an the asteroid belt. The characters are extremely well drawn, with enough flaws and desires to make you believe in their every intention. The settings are dramatic and involve all the standard science fiction elements of space ships, exotic locales and high technology. The science seems very solid and doesn’t go so far so that it need pages of info dump to explain but when explanation is offered it’s pretty well engrained into the storyline.

There are a few places where Bova has to use fortunate coincidence to move the story along but none where it’s so important to the story that it bothered me for long. The human drama is the center of this story and I have to give it high marks for making the trials and tribulations of the people the centerpiece of the story, including love, mystery and murder.

It’s a good science fiction tale told by what is obviously a master storyteller. I will be picking up his other novels about the planets, including Titan, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus. His bibliography seems to be chock full of good books. I may just have found my newest science fiction author.

Buy Mercury (The Grand Tour)

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