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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
As the bestselling author of dozens of science fiction novels, winner of the prestigious Hugo Award, and one time editor of the high-powered SF magazine Analog, Ben Bova is one of the most provocative and exhilarating hard science fiction literary icons of the last 30 years. In Return to Mars, the follow-up to 1992's Mars, Bova brings to life another authentic and exciting novel of the near future; in Bova's new vision, the second manned mission to Mars is as much a matter of profit as it is a search to find intelligent life and a struggle to survive in a hostile environment.
Six years after the close of Mars, Navajo astronaut Jamie Waterman returns to the red planet as mission leader of the second expedition. Waterman, nearly passed over on the second flight, fought hard to earn the top slot on the mission and now hopes to learn more about the lichen life-forms found in the Vallis Marinaris on the first expedition. He also intends to determine if the cliff dwellings he saw on the original flight are natural phenomena or were made by intelligent beings. This time out, though, Dex Trumball, son of billionaire Darryl C. Trumball, is along for the ride and intends to scope out Mars solely as a place for making money, possibly by planning ways to shuttle the wealthy aboard future flights.
Waterman realizes that no one believes his theory that intelligent life must have existed on Mars and created the cliff dwellings. Playing up to the politics involved, Waterman suppresses his need to search the mountains further and follows the mission objectives totheletter. Everything is going fine until several small accidents and other troubles begin occurring; these incidents are followed by a more significant predicament that might mean sabotage. Eventually, though, Waterman makes it to the cliff face again, where he's forced to fight for his life among rugged terrain, unsure of just who wants to destroy him and the mission, or why.
Bova relishes the lavish, convincing, scientific details of the red planet in Return to Mars, but the author does not allow the hard science to hinder the action-packed adventure tale for even a moment. It's to the author's great credit that the reader actually gets a sense of what it might be like to wander among the rocks and rust like dust of Mars's surface. Bova weaves a hard-hitting, briskly paced, multilayered narrative that excels on all fronts. The diary entries showing the saboteur's unraveling psyche intensifies the story as we wait to see the results of each act of treachery. With such elements, the novel unfolds rapidly with a series of electrifying circumstances that all begin to draw together to a pulse-pounding climax.
Bova has complete command of his voice, style, and ability to blend science with wholehearted believability. The scope of his story is as large as Mars's grand canyon, and he handles the escalating suspense and complications with a thoroughly competent, skillful hand. In Return to Mars, Bova has once again launched into an adventure series that is part cutting-edge science fiction, part suspense thriller, and totally engrossing.