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The Rock Rats (Asteroid Wars Series #2)

The Rock Rats (Asteroid Wars Series #2)

4.3 8
by Ben Bova, Amanda Karr (Read by), Ira Claffey (Read by), IRA Claffey (Read by), Amanda Karr (Read by)

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Book Two in the Asteroid Wars—continuing the saga of the struggle for the wealth of the Solar System

Visionary space industrialist Dan Randolph is dead—but his protégé, pilot Pancho Barnes, now sits on the board of his conglomerate. She has her work cut out for her—for Randolph’s rival, Martin Humphries, still wants to


Book Two in the Asteroid Wars—continuing the saga of the struggle for the wealth of the Solar System

Visionary space industrialist Dan Randolph is dead—but his protégé, pilot Pancho Barnes, now sits on the board of his conglomerate. She has her work cut out for her—for Randolph’s rival, Martin Humphries, still wants to control Astro and still wants to drive independent asteroid miners like Lars Fuchs out of business. Humphries wants revenge against Pancho—and, most of all, he wants his old flame, Amanda, who has become Lars Fuchs’s wife. Before it ends, many will die—and many will achieve more than they ever dreamed was possible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Noted space expert Bova returns to his planetary future history (Moonrise, etc.) in a hard-charging continuation of the battle for the Asteroid Belt begun in The Precipice (2001). Positing an Earth on the brink of eco-catastrophe, a recently independent moon and a frontier filled with prospectors and claim-jumpers out among the asteroids, it is a story that at first appears to be very familiar. But mixed in with the high-tech optimism and libertarian good faith are the darker elements of an older dramatic tradition. Keeping his themes classical love, jealousy, greed Bova gives his tale energy and focus through a love triangle that evolves into a vendetta. Lars Fuchs finds that he and new wife Amanda can't escape from the attentions of Martin Humphries, his rival for both Amanda and the Belt's mineral wealth. Trying to establish a home on Ceres, Lars and Amanda, with their fellow prospectors and miners, are threatened by increasing attacks on their property and lives. Ultimately, Lars must duel Dorik Harbin, the gunslinger sent to kill all who refuse to sign contracts with Humphries Space Systems. As in Greek tragedy, from which the author openly draws, there's no happy ending, only deception, gory murder, exile and planned revenge. Archetypal rather than well-rounded, characters suffer more from their own fatal flaws, hubris chief among them, than from each other's actions. Ambitiously juggling elements of space opera, western and Sophoclean drama, Bova keeps the pages turning. (Apr. 11) FYI: A past SFWA president, Bova has won six Hugo Awards. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A plan to mine the Asteroid Belt for its wealth of mineral resources finds support from two rival corporations: Astro, headed by visionary Dan Randolph, and Humphries Space Systems, led by ambitious industrialist Martin Humphries. Upon the death of Randolph, his prot g Pancho Barnes assumes the burden of trying to keep Humphries from taking control of the asteroid-mining business and exploiting it for his own purposes. Combining old-fashioned action-adventure with a dose of murder, sabotage, and hard sf, the sequel to The Precipice illustrates the common human struggle between altruism and greed. For most sf collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Book two in a series that chronicles the struggle for control over the rich resources of the Asteroid Belt. In this not-too-distant future, the quality of life on Earth has taken a serious turn for the worse, but new frontiers are opening up on the Moon and beyond. Unfortunately, only the richest and most powerful individuals have been reaping the benefits so far, but perhaps those who take the most risks will win the upper hand in the Asteroid Belt-if these fierce individualists can ever agree on anything. Hard-bitten prospectors brave the dangers of space to find that lucky strike, the mineral-rich "rock" that can make them wealthy, returning for supplies and to hang out at the saloon on Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Belt. Meanwhile, a ruthless industrialist schemes from his base on the Moon, stopping at nothing, including the murder of several sympathetic characters, to own it all. Prospector Lars Fuchs and his wife Amanda fight to survive, encouraging the denizens of Ceres to form some sort of society to protect their common interests. Readers who enjoy plenty of action, do not require much in the way of characterization, and have a high tolerance for a rather vicious sort of violence should enjoy this book. It's not Bova's best, but his many fans should be entertained and intrigued.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A direct sequel to The Precipice (2001) and addition to Bova's near/medium-future series about humanity's expansion through the solar system. Megalomaniac industrialist Martin Humphries intends to control the entire solar system, and key to his plan is the asteroid belt with its virtually limitless resources of metals (for ailing Earth's industries) and volatiles (for the fledgling communities on the Moon and elsewhere in space). "Rock rat" (space miner) Lars Fuchs makes his home inside Ceres, one of the largest asteroids, and, like other rock rats, hopes to get rich by prospecting and mining. Unfortunately for him, Martin Humphries is obsessed by Lars's stunning and intelligent wife, Amanda, and will spare no effort to destroy Lars and win Amanda for himself. In business, Humphries has only one serious rival: Astro Corporation's Pancho Lane, heir to Astro's founder, Dan Randolph, murdered by Humphries in the previous book. Astro helps Lars set up a company to sell supplies to the rock rats, but Humphries sabotages the warehouse, then sends a ship to kill rock rats and claim whatever they've prospected—and, incidentally, to assassinate Lars Fuchs also. The belt's nominal authority, Earth-based IAA, refuses to act against Humphries, citing lack of evidence. Poor Lars, driven to the end of his tether, acknowledges that he can't protect Amanda, his only option being to divorce her (in effect leaving her to Humphries) and turn to piracy himself, preying on Humphries's ships and bases—and risk an all-out war in the asteroid belt. Another attention-grabbing entry in a series that continues to grow in stature, scope, and complexity. Once again, Bova in top form.
From the Publisher

“Bova in top form.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Compelling.” —Booklist

“Hard-charging. . . . Ambitiously juggling elements of space opera, western, and Sophoclean drama, Bova keeps the pages turning.” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Macmillan Audio
Publication date:
Asteroid Wars Series , #2
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"I said it would be simple," Lars Fuchs repeated. "I did not say it would be easy."

George Ambrose—Big George to everyone who knew him—scratched absently at his thick red beard as he gazed thoughtfully out through the window of Starpower 1's bridge toward the immense looming dark bulk of the asteroid Ceres.

"I di'n't come out here to get involved in daft schemes, Lars," he said. His voice was surprisingly high and sweet for such a shaggy mastodon of a man.

For a long moment the only sound in the compartment was the eternal hum of electrical equipment. Then Fuchs pushed between the two pilots' seats to drift toward Big George. Stopping himself with a touch of his hand against the metal overhead, he said in an urgent whisper, "We can do it. Given time and resources."

"It's fookin' insane," George muttered. But he kept staring out at the asteroid's rock-strewn, pockmarked surface.

They made an odd pair: the big, bulky Aussie with his shaggy brick-red mane and beard hovering weightlessly beside the dark, intense, thickset Fuchs. Three years in the Belt had changed Fuchs somewhat: he was still burly, barrel-chested, but he had let his chestnut brown hair grow almost to his collar, and the earring he wore was now a polished chip of asteroidal copper. A slim bracelet of copper circled his left wrist. Yet in their individual ways, both men looked powerful, determined, even dangerous.

"Living inside Ceres is bad for our health," Fuchs said.

George countered, "Plenty of radiation protection from the rock."

"It's themicrogravity," Fuchs said earnestly. "It's not good for us, physically."

"I like it."

"But the bones become so brittle. Dr. Cardenas says the rate of fractures is rising steeply. You've seen that yourself, haven't you?"

"Maybe," George half-admitted. Then he grinned. "But th' sex is fookin' fantastic!"

Fuchs scowled at the bigger man. "Be serious, George."

Without taking his eyes off Ceres' battered face, George said, "Okay, you're right. I know it. But buildin' a bloody O'Neill habitat?"

"It doesn't have to be that big, not like the L-5 habitats around Earth. Just big enough to house the few hundred people here in Ceres. At first."

George shook his shaggy head. "You know how big a job you're talkin' about? Just the life support equipment alone would cost a mint. And then some."

"No, no. That's the beauty of my scheme," Fuchs said, with a nervous laugh. "We simply purchase spacecraft and put them together. They become the habitat. And they already have all the life support equipment and radiation shielding built into them. We won't need their propulsion units at all, so the price will be much lower than you think."

"Then you want to spin the whole fookin' kludge to an Earth-normal g?"

"Lunar normal," Fuchs answered. "One-sixth g is good enough. Dr. Cardenas agrees."

George scratched at his thick, unkempt beard. "I dunno, Lars. We've been livin' inside the rock okay. Why go to all this trouble and expense?"

"Because we have to!" Fuchs insisted. "Living in micro-gravity is dangerous to our health. We must build a better habitat for ourselves."

George looked unconvinced, but he muttered, "Lunar g, you say?"

"One-sixth normal Earth gravity. No more than that."

"How much will it cost?"

Fuchs blinked once. "We can buy the stripped-down spacecraft from Astro Corporation. Pancho is offering a very good price."

"How much?"

"The preliminary figures work out . . ." Fuchs hesitated, took a breath, then said, "We can do it if all the prospectors and miners put in ten percent of their income."

George grunted. "A tithe, huh?"

"Ten percent isn't much."

"A lot of us rock rats don't make any income at all, some years."

"I know," said Fuchs. "I factored that into the cost estimate. Of course, we'll have to pay off the spacecraft over twenty or thirty-year leases. Like a mortgage on a house, Earthside."

"So you want everybody here in Ceres to take on a twenty-year debt?"

"We can pay it off sooner, perhaps. A few really big strikes could pay for the entire project all by themselves."

"Yeah. Sure."

With burning intensity, Fuchs asked, "Will you do it? If you agree, most of the other prospectors will, too."

"Whyn't you get one of the corporations t' do it?" George asked. "Astro or Humphries . . ." He stopped when he saw the look on Fuchs' face.

"Not Humphries," Fuchs growled. "Never him or his company. Never."

"Okay. Astro, then."

Fuchs' scowl shifted into a troubled frown. "I've spoken to Pancho about it. The Astro board would not vote for it. They will sell stripped-down spacecraft to us, but they won't commit to building the habitat. They don't see a profit from it."

George grunted. "Lot they care if we snap our bones."

"But you care," Fuchs said eagerly. "It's our problem, George; we have to solve it. And we can, if you'll help."

Running a beefy hand through his thick mop of red hair, Big George said, "You're gonna need a teckie team to do the integration job. There's more to puttin' this habitat of yours together than just connectin' tinkertoys, y'know. You'll need a flock of geek boys."

"That's already in the cost estimate," Fuchs replied.

George huffed a mighty sigh, then said, "All right, Lars, I'm in. I guess it would be pretty good to have a base out here in the Belt with some decent gravity to it."

Fuchs smiled. "You can always have sex aboard your own ship."

George grinned back at him. "Believe it, mate. Believe it."

Fuchs went with George to the ship's main airlock and helped the bigger man get back into his hard-shell spacesuit.

"They're testin' lightweight suits back at Selene, y'know," he said as he slid into the rigid torso and worked his arms through the stiff sleeves. "Flexible. Easy to put on."

"And the radiation protection?" Fuchs asked.

"Magnetic field surrounds the suit. They claim it's better'n this stuff." He rapped his knuckles against the torso's cermet carapace.

Fuchs gave a little snort of disdain. "They'll need years of testing before I'd buy one."

As he wormed his hands into the gloves, George said, "Me too."

Handing the bigger man his fishbowl helmet, Fuchs said, "Thanks for agreeing, George," he said. "It means a lot to me."

George nodded solemnly. "I know. You two want to have kids."

Fuchs' cheeks reddened. "It's not that!"

"Isn't it?"

"Well, not alone, no." Fuchs looked away from George for a moment, then slowly admitted, "I worry about Amanda, yes. I never thought she would want to stay out here with me. I never thought I myself would be out here this long."

"There's a lot of money to be made here in the Belt. A lot of money."

"Yes, yes indeed. But I worry about her. I want her to be in a safer place, with enough gravity to keep her from de-conditioning."

"And enough radiation shielding to start a family," George said, grinning. Then he pulled on his helmet before Fuchs could think of a reply.

Excerpted from The Rock Rats by Ben Bova. Copyright © 2000 by Ben Bova. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

BEN BOVA is a six-time winner of science fiction’s Hugo award and past president of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the National Space Society. He lives in Florida.


Ira Claffey has narrated or co-narrated numerous audio titles from Macmillan Audio.  His work includes Rock Rats, Thomas Jefferson, Rutherford B. Hayes, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Quincy Adams, Grover Cleveland, James Madison, and Theodore Roosevelt.  Of Ira’s narration of Theodore Roosevelt, AudioFile magazine has said, “Ira Claffey's passionate but cultivated voice is the perfect medium in which to join two men of refinement.”


Amanda Karr is an award-winning actress and director. In addition to television appearances on The Guardian and Days of Our Lives, Amanda has played Zelda Fitzgerald in the critically acclaimed musical Tender. On audio, she can be heard as the voice of Ender's cyber-friend, Jane, and as Pancho Lane in Ben Bova's Planet series.

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Rock Rats 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Humanities only hope for survival remains with the ore rich Asteroid Belt. However, the rivalry for control of the vast richness continues between Martin Humphries and Lars Fuchs. Martin wants to exploit the mineral wealth as a means to make him dictator of the solar system. On the other hand, Lars feels that there is room for everyone to benefit and welcomes competition including from the independent ROCK RATS, miners like him living and working amidst the asteroid orbs. However, the antagonism between Lars and Martin has turned even more personal and ugly as the former has married Amanda Cunningham, a woman that the latter obsesses to make as one of his more precious possessions.

Lars sells supplies to THE ROCK RATS, but Martin destroys his competitor¿s warehouse, kills innocent rock rats, and steals their find. He also tries to murder Lars. A desperate Lars counters Martin¿s assault by attacking his malevolent opponent¿s ships and bases. Though distant from earth, mankind¿s latest economic battle is turning deadly with war seemingly inevitable.

THE ROCK RATS, book two of the Asteroid Wars, shows why Ben Bova is one of science fiction¿s all time greats, as he delivers an exhilarating tale that will please his fans and those readers who relish outer space stories. The story line is fast-paced, loaded with action, and makes life on Ceres and elsewhere in the Asteroid Belt feel authentic in an everyday sense. Though Martin appears a bit extreme as a maniacal industrialist, he and the other key cast members remain as strong as they did in the entertaining first novel, THE PRECIPICE. Readers will enjoy this outer space adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Part of a four book subset of the lengthy "Clarke County" "future history" series in the Heinlein tradition. Stands alone, with overlapping characters. It might be better for fans like me who enjoy reading interlocking books in the same universe to begin at the beginning.
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William13 More than 1 year ago
Great sci-fi that gets closer to home each year.