The Barnes & Noble Review
Six-time Hugo Award–winning author and editor Ben Bova explores the early life of one of his most intriguing characters -- the hard-driving space entrepreneur Dan Randolph -- in Powersat, a high-tech thriller about the maverick's struggle to create giant satellites that can gather and utilize the sun's energy.
If realized, Randolph's dream to manufacture powersats that gather solar energy and transfer it to generators on Earth would end America's dependence on fossil fuels forever. In the character's own words: "If we could convert even a tenth of one percent of…sunlight into electricity, the world would never have a power shortage. Ever." But standing in his way are numerous powerful opponents: NASA, the FAA, fanatical ecological groups, international oil corporations, and a terrorist organization called The Nine -- whose ultimate mission isn't only to make America dependent on Middle East oil but to destroy the nation altogether.
Bova's mastery of mixing hard scientific theories with compelling romantic and political intrigue is evident once again in Powersat, where the plotlines concerning experimental low-orbit spaceplanes and mile-long solar satellites are flawlessly intertwined with complicated relationships, including Randolph's ill-fated love affair with a U.S. senator and his tumultuous friendship with the head of a Japanese corporation trying to take over his floundering company. Not surprisingly, the prolific Bova's provides a page-turner of the highest order, as entertaining as it is inspiring. Readers will have a hard time putting this book down. Classic Ben! Paul Goat Allen
Bova's polemical near-future SF thriller will appeal most to established fans who share his pro-space exploration politics. After Dan Randolph's Astro Corporation loses its experimental space plane on re-entry to the atmosphere, Dan discovers that the plane was destroyed by a terrorist conspiracy headed by "tall, bearded Saudi" Asim al-Bashir, who wishes to sabotage Astro's plans to put satellites in geosynchronous orbit capable of beaming solar energy in microwave form to earth. Al-Bashir has powerful allies, among them oil magnate Wendell T. Garrison, but Dan can turn to his own friends, including a female staff member who penetrates al-Bashir's organization. Dan later recruits to his cause some independent-minded FBI agents and Sen. Jane Thornton, with whom he renews their old affair (despite Jane's being secretly married to a senator running for president). While the straightforward motivations of both heroes and villains verge on the simplistic and the plot holds no surprises as it builds to a climactic confrontation over Washington, D.C., the author supplies a suspenseful ride and plenty of high-tech hardware. Agent, Barbara Bova. (Jan. 13) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Industrialist Dan Randolph is in a bind. The spaceplane necessary for making his power satellite feasible has blown up during its first test flight, killing the pilot. Terrorists are responsible, although Dan does not know it-terrorists who want to take control of his satellite and use it to attack Washington D.C. All Dan wants is to provide the United States with cheap, clean energy, but even more he wants to reunite with his former lover Jane Thornton, now a U.S. Senator. Unfortunately for him, her fate is now intertwined with a presidential front-runner whose major campaign platform is alternative energy sources. Their interests seem fated to bring them together, with only politics, business, and a terrorist attack standing in the way. After a weak start, this novel recovers to develop page-turning momentum by mid-book. The characters, while not terribly deep, are basically likeable, and the cast is large and busy enough to carry simultaneous plot threads. Ultimately, however, this book is a profoundly pedestrian effort by SF luminary Bova. None of the story lines-love story, terrorist plot, the little company that could-are rich enough to generate suspense. The book holds few surprises, and the fresher elements prove inadequate to cover what feels like writing-by-numbers: the Japanese man "slim as a samurai's blade;" the uniformly attractive women, all of whom desire or sleep with Randolph; the obligatory action sequence at the end; even the terrorists. The result is a very lightweight take on what should be more involving issues. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12;Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2005, Tor, 400p., Ages 15 to Adult.
The explosion of a low-orbit spaceplane while on its test run nearly ruins the private business of its owner, Dan Randolph. Determined to create a new, space-based source of energy, Randolph finds himself in an all-out war with corporate rivals and agents from countries supplying fossil fuels to the United States and other energy-dependent nations. Bova's (The Silent War) dedication to space exploration as well as his grasp of today's discoveries makes his sf tales some of the most down-to-earth explorations of the real possibilities of future technology. A strong addition to most sf collections, with additional appeal to YA audiences. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Prequel to Bova's successful series dramatizing the near/medium-future exploration of the solar system (The Silent War, 2004, etc.). Industrialist Dan Randolph, determined to free the US from dependency on Middle East oil, intends to build a fleet of powersats: huge satellites that, placed in geosynchronous orbits, will soak up free sunlight and beam the power to Earth in the form of microwaves. Now, though the first powersat is already in orbit and nearly complete, Dan's Astro Manufacturing Corporation is nearly bankrupt, and his new spaceplane has mysteriously crashed. Saito Yamagata, Dan's old employer, is willing to offer loans-but Yamagata's a rival in the powersat business. Crusty old Wendell T. Garrison of Tricontinental oil wishes to give Dan money too-in exchange for a piece of Astro. Environmentalists, concerned that the microwaves from the powersat will harm wildlife and people, want Astro shut down. Dan's former lover, Senator Jane Thornton (their careers and lives went in impossibly different directions) is backing Texas governor Morgan Scanwell for president; Scanwell shares Dan's dream and will help Astro with long-term, low-cost loans-if he's elected. Investigators find no flaw with the spaceplane, convincing Dan that it was sabotaged. Then Garrison's new board member, super-rich oil sheikh Asim Al-Bashir, recommends that Tricontinental offer Dan a loan and openly supports Dan's powersat. Why? Well, Dan doesn't know that Al-Bashir secretly heads a terrorist organization whose objective is to seize control of the powersat-and microwave Washington. Plenty of agreeable complications, but the assembly-line cast and situations tag this as just a footnote to an otherwisedistinguished series.