The Barnes & Noble Review
In Mercury, one of the destinations on Ben Bova's epic Grand Tour saga (Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, et al.), a disgraced engineer weaves an intricate plot to take down the people who ruined his life. The stage for his vengeance is the barren, heat-scorched planet of Mercury.
Maverick entrepreneur Saito Yamagata has come out of his self-imposed seclusion to begin a project on Mercury devoted to generating inexpensive power for the growing human habitations throughout the solar system. Also involved in the project are Victor Molina, a self-absorbed astrobiologist; Elliott Danvers, a sanctimonious preacher in the fanatical New Morality Church; and Dante Alexios, an intense, enigmatic engineer in charge of the mission. Unbeknownst to all, Alexios is actually Mance Bracknell, a visionary engineer turned pariah after the project he was heading -- the construction of a massive skytower in Ecuador -- crashed to earth, killing more than 4 million people. Danvers, Molina, and Yamagata all played integral roles in Bracknell's downfall: Danvers was a spy for the Church, Molina falsely implicated Bracknell during the subsequent trial and ended up marrying his fiancée, and Yamagata's corporation was behind the project's sabotage. Now decades later, Dante has his fiery revenge.
Like the other novels in Bova's Grand Tour -- a series of loosely connected tales about humankind's expansion throughout the solar system -- Mercury is built on hard science but powered by the emotional entanglements of its characters. While nothing in life is guaranteed, Ben Bova's storytelling prowess -- with his trademark blend of scientific speculation and enthralling romantic and political intrigue -- comes close. Paul Goat Allen
Set in the same future universe as the author's asteroid series (The Silent War, etc.) and sharing such major players as the Yamagata Corporation and the religion of the New Morality, Hugo-winner Bova's well-plotted fourth planet novel (after 2003's Saturn) features a classic love triangle, backed by the occasional Greek chorus of scientific explanations. While astrobiologist Victor Molina and engineer Mance Bracknell (disguised as Dante Alexios) vie for the affections of Victor's wife, Lara Tierney Molina, Saito Yamagata attempts to create an efficient, inexpensive staging area on Mercury to send ships into deep space. Meanwhile, Bracknell schemes to exact revenge for his destroyed past. Ten years earlier, Bracknell's efforts to create another efficient, inexpensive method of launching spaceships called "The Sky Tower" was sabotaged by Bishop Danvers of the New Morality, as well as by Molina and Yamagata's son, Nobu. Millions of innocents died as a result. The moral questions raised by Bracknell's complicated retribution scenarios about the rights of victims for revenge and the immoral consequences of moral acts add depth to an otherwise standard tale of space adventure. Agent, Barbara Bova. (May 4) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In the near future, the planet Mercury looms large in the sights of men and women who see Earth's future survival in harvesting the solar system. Some want to use the tiny planet as a satellite orbit point, others seek evidence of life in the polar water, while one man craves revenge for a past tragedy of monstrous proportions. Continuing his exploration of the solar system, sf veteran Bova presents a dramatic tale of ambition and vengeance coupled with an absorbing look at the inner solar system's smallest and most elusive planet. Fans of the author's technological expertise and his strong prospace bias should enjoy this action-packed tale. Recommended for most libraries. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Another entry in Bova's series melodramatizing the near/medium-future exploration of the solar system (Powersat, 2004, etc.). This time, various movers and shakers are drawn to the planet Mercury. Ruthless industrialist Saito Yamagata, given a second life thanks to medical nanotechnology (he died of cancer, was frozen, revived and cured), conceives a grand idea: He will send mankind to the stars. So, Yamagata hires space engineer Dante Alexios to build a fleet of power satellites in orbit about Mercury. Laser boosts from the powersats will push spaceships to the stars. But Yamagata wonders why, though they hadn't met before, Alexios seems so familiar. Meanwhile, exobiologist Victor Molina receives an anonymous tip about some rocks found in a crater on Mercury. The rocks, Molina finds, bear traces of life! To Molina, also, Alexios seems weirdly familiar. Soon after, Molina triumphantly broadcasts his discoveries, Bishop Elliot Danvers of the reactionary New Morality arrives; his mission is to discredit Molina. It gives nothing away to mention the story's central section-Bova makes no attempt to conceal the broad outlines of his plot-in which, ten years ago, genius engineer Mance Bracknell built a space elevator; attacked by terrorists, the structure fell to Earth, killing millions. Bracknell was blamed, thanks in part to testimony by Molina and Danvers. Yamagata's role in the disaster was, apparently, even more direct. As a result, Bracknell was banished from Earth and lost the love of his life to Molina. No prizes for guessing who's who, and how this all links up. A humdrum addition to this wide-ranging but, lately, flagging series.
From the Publisher
“A guaranteed crowd-pleaser!” Booklist on Mercury
“Recalls the work of Heinlein in his Destination Moon mode, or Hal Clement in any number of stories: a day-after-tomorrow tale crafted with near-journalistic purity…It's a difficult, demanding mode to pursue, and not many choose to nowadays. But Bova does it magnificently.” Paul Di Filippo, Scifi.com, on Jupiter
“With Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein gone, Bova, author of more than 70 books, is one of the last deans of traditional science fiction. And he hasn't lost his touch. Venus scorches.” Kansas City Star on Venus
“Bova gets better and better, combining plausible science with increasingly complex fiction.” Los Angeles Daily News
Read an Excerpt
BOOK I THE REALM OF FIRE
No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change: Thy pyramids built up with newer might To me are nothing novel, nothing strange; They are but dressings of a former sight.
Saito Yamagata had to squint against the Sun's overwhelming glare, even through the heavily tinted visor of his helmet.
"This is truly the realm of fire," he whispered to himself. "Small wonder our ancestors worshiped you, Daystar."
Despite his instinctive unease, Yamagata felt physically comfortable enough inside his thickly insulated spacesuit; its cooling system and the radiators that projected from its back like a pair of dark oblong wings seemed to be working adequately. Still, the nearness, the overpowering brightness, the sheer size of that seething, churning ball of roiling gases made his nerves flutter. It seemed to fill the sky. Yamagata could see streamers arching up from the Sun's curved limb into the blackness of space, huge bridges of million-degree plasma expanding and then pouring back down onto the blazing, searing surface of the photosphere.
He shuddered inside the cramped confines of his suit. Enough sight-seeing, he told himself. You have proven your courage and audacity for all the crew and your guests to see and remember. Get back inside the ship. Get to work. It is time to begin your third life.
Yamagata had come to Mercury to seek salvation. A strange route to blessedness, he thought. I must first pass through this fiery inferno, like a Catholic serving time in purgatory before attaining heaven. He tried to shrug philosophically, found that it was impossible in the suit, so instead he lifted his left arm with the help of the suit's miniaturized servomotors and studied the keyboard wrapped around his wrist until he felt certain that he knew which keys he must touch to activate and control his suit's propulsion unit. He could call for assistance, he knew, but the loss of face was too much to risk. Despite the lamas' earnest attempts to teach him humility, Yamagata still held to hispride. If I go sailing out into infinity, he told himself, then I can call for help. And blame a suit malfunction, he added, with a sly grin.
He was pleased, then, when he was able to turn himself to face Himawari, the big, slowly rotating fusion torch ship that had brought him and his two guests to Mercury, and actually began jetting toward it at a sedate pace. With something of a shock Yamagata realized this was the first time he had ever been in space. All those years of his first life, building the power satellites and getting rich, he had remained firmly on Earth. Then he had died of cancer, been frozen, and reborn. Most of his second life he had spent in the lamasery in the Himalayas. He had never gone into space. Not until now.
Time to begin my third life, he said to himself as he neared Himawari. Time to atone for the first two.
Time for the stars.
Copyright © 2005 by Ben Bova