About the Author:
Ben Bova holds degrees from both the State University of New York and Temple University, Philadelphia. He and his wife lived in Conneticut and Florida. Bova died at the age of 88 on the 29th of November 2020.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Part of Bova's loose Grand Tour series, 'Mars' tells the story of mankind's first journey to our nearest neighbour. It centres around Jamie Waterman, a man of Native American descent, who is added to the international team of scientists at the last minute.
Bova's science is solid and believable, but like Arthur C. Clarke, he knows that it is important to make the actual people the focus of the story. There is plenty of tension created by politics, international and sexual, and the interpersonal relationships develop well.
The actual events on Mars itself make for excellent reading, although vitamin C deficiency isn't necesarily the most dramatic threat he could have featured.
The book's only real failing is that it belabours old prejudices that really shouldn't be a factor. The American-Russian thing is one such, but by far the worse offender is the constant references to the persecution of the Native Americans. I mean, it gets to the point where you think 'brush the chip off your shoulder and get over it'. I'm not trying to trivialise the issue, but it simply wasn't relevant to the story. There's also a rather hideous stereotype of an Englishman too.
4 out of 5
Part of the Grand Tour series. Now, I'll give you three guesses as to which planet in the solar system this book deals with... The reason for the interplanetary mission is slightly different here however. The ruthless and arrogant billionaire Martin Humphries sets a challenge worth ten billion dollars; for someone to recover the remains of his eldest son who crashed on Venus years before.
The first to take up the challenge is Humphries' younger son, Van. The relationship between these two characters started off as painfully cliche, with the father resenting the son for a) killing the mother in childbirth and b) surviving when the older child died. Basically, think Denethor and Faramir in Lord of the Rings. The other character to take up the challenge is the secretive and rage-filled Lars Fuchs, determined to get one over on his old enemy Humphries. Together with the cliched family dynamic and the fractured skip-a-bit nature of the first few chapters, I found it hard to get into this book.
However, if you persevere, you will be rewarded. The story becomes intriguing and thrilling once the descent into Venus' sulphuric acid clouds begins and soon had me hooked. The twist in the family tale is fairly predictable, but is a hell of a lot better than how it starts off. In the end it is the ferocity of Venus as a planet which steals the show, even if Bova's otherwise brilliant descriptions are occasionally marred by overuse of the Hell metaphor.
4 out of 5