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