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—Booklist on The Rock Rats
"Immensely entertaining…A cracking read."
—SFX on The Precipice
"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
"I believe that by far the science fiction author who will have the greatest effect on the science fiction world, and the world as a whole, is Ben Bova."
SAM GUNN OMNIBUS
THE STORY OF SAM GUNN IS INEXTRICABLY INTERWOVEN with the story of a beautiful, vulnerable, and determined young woman. Knowing Sam, you would expect she was an object of his rabid testosterone-fed sex drive (or, as Shakespeare put it, the bottomless cistern of his lust).
But you'd be wrong.
She likes to be called Jade, although her name is actually Jane. Jane Avril Inconnu. Sometimes new acquaintances mistake that last name for Romanian, although her flame-red hair and dazzling green eyes speak of more northern and flamboyant lands. She will tolerate such misunderstandings—when there is some advantage to being tolerant.
She received her name from the Quebecois surgeon who adopted her as a foundling at the old original Moonbase, back when that precarious settlement was civilization's rugged frontier. There were no pediatricians on the Moon; the surgeon happened to be on duty when the female infant, red-faced and squalling, was discovered in the corridor just outside the base's small hospital. No more than a few days old, the infant had been placed in a plastic shipping container, neatly bundled and warmly blanketed. And abandoned. Who the baby's mother might be remained a mystery, even though Moonbase hardly supported more than two hundred men and women in those days, plus a handful of visitors.
Her adopted mother's name was Jane, the month was April, and inconnu is the French word for "unknown." So the orphaned baby girl became Jane Avril Inconnu, raised alone by the surgeon for the first four years of her life.
By the time the surgeon's five-year contract with Moonbase was completed and she was due to return to Montreal, the medical staff—which doted on the little girl—had discovered that Jane Avril suffered from a congenital bone defect, a rare inability to manufacture sufficient amounts of calcium. Neither exercise nor medicine could help. Although she could walk and run and play normally in the gentle gravity of the Moon, on Earth she would be a helpless cripple, confined to a wheelchair or a mechanicalexoskeleton, in constant danger of snapping her brittle, fragile bones.
Her adopted mother bravely decided to remain with the child, but then the news came from Montreal that her own mother was gravely ill, dying. Torn between the generations, the woman returned to Earth, promising to return soon, soon. She never did. There were family obligations on Earth, and later a husband who wanted children of his own.
Jane Avril remained at Moonbase, orphaned once again, raised by a succession of medical personnel at the hospital. Some were warm and loving, some were distant and uncaring. A few were actually abusive now and then.
Moonbase grew, over those years, into the city called Selene. The frontier of civilization crept across the battered old face of the Moon and expanded into cislunar space, where great habitats were built in the dark emptiness to house hundreds of thousands of people. Explorers reached out to Mars, and then farther. Entrepreneurs, some wildly reckless, some patient and cunning, began to reap the wealth of space. Fortunes were built on lunar mining, on power satellites to feed the energy hungers of Earth, on prospecting the metals and minerals of the asteroids.
Of all those daring and dashing fortune-seekers, the first, the most adventurous, the best known of them all was Sam Gunn. As she grew into young womanhood, Jane Avril heard endless stories about Sam Gunn and the fortunes he had found in space. Found and lost. For Sam was more impetuous and unpredictable than a solar storm. Long before Jane Avril acquired the nickname Jade, Sam Gunn was already a living legend.
She could not consider herself beautiful, despite the gorgeous red hair and those dazzling green eyes that gave her the sobriquet. She was small, just a shade over one hundred sixty-five centimeters tall. Her figure was slim, elfin, almost childlike. Her face was just a trifle too long and narrow to suit her, although she could smile very prettily when she wanted to. She seldom did.
Being raised as an orphan had built a hard shell of distrust around her. She knew from painful experience that no relationship ever lasted long, and it was foolish to open her heart to anyone.
Yet that heart of hers was a romantic one. Inside her protective crust was a yearning for adventure and love that would not die, no matter how sternly she tried to repress it. She dreamed of tall handsome men, bold heroes with whom she would travel to the ends of the solar system. She wanted with all her heart to get free of the dreary monotony of Selene,with its gray underground corridors and its unending sameness every day, year after year.
She knew that she was forever barred from Earth, even though she could see its blue beautiful glory shining at her in the dark lunar sky. Earth, with all its teeming billions of people and its magnificent cities and oceans of water so deep and blue and raging wild. Selene was a cemetery by comparison. She had to get away, to fly free, anywhere. If she could never set foot on Earth, there were still the great habitats at the Lagrangian points, and the bridge ships plying out toward Mars, the rugged frontier of the Asteroid Belt, and beyond, to the deadly beautiful dangers of the gas giant worlds.
Such were her dreams. The best she could do, though, was to get a job as a truck driver up on the dusty dead lunar surface.
But still she dreamed. And waited for her opportunity.
Copyright © 2007 by Ben Bova
Posted December 9, 2008
The Sam Gunn Omnibus Ben Bova Tor, Feb 2007, $29.95 ISBN: 076531617X If you have to ask who Sam Gunn is, then you probably need to pass on the exploits of this space faring hero (antihero to bureaucrats and business moguls) who vanished like an Alice down a black hole during one of his Grand Tours. His omnibus brings together all the Gunn tales that showcase a courageous, dedicated NASA drop-out who is always making a buck or a woman that is when he was not taking a time out defending the underdog. Fans of the Gunn galaxy will appreciate this compilation of the exciting exploits and escapades of a space cowboy however reading them together in one massive tome (50 stories varying in size and 704 pages) is a revelation to the brilliance of Ben Bova as the link to the Grand tour novels (see TITAN and SATURN) suddenly seems obvious. Readers who enjoy a Napoleonic Hans Solo like protagonist (antagonist to the power abusers) will want to travel the galaxy with this man from NASA (not) and spend time with his Selene City moon-based anchor Jane ¿call me Jade¿ Avril Inconnu. --- Harriet Klausner
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