Ben Bova, 1932-

Book - 2020

A religious idealist, a billionaire financier, and a prestigious scientist battle for control over a space mission to search for life on Uranus.

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Bova, Ben, 1932- Outer planets trilogy ; bk. 1.
Science fiction
New York : Tor 2020.
First edition
Item Description
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Physical Description
380 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Ben Bova, 1932- (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Bova's (Earth, 2019) newest kicks off the Outer Planets trilogy. Haven, the habitat around Uranus, was founded by Reverend Kyle Umber as a sanctuary for the downtrodden people of Earth. Evan Waxman, the billionaire benefactor of Haven and Umber's right-hand man, treats Haven as the center for his illegal activities. Raven Marchesi is a sex worker who has come to Haven to start a new life, though she does not take the religious program seriously. She is first assigned to guide astronomer Tomas Gomez, who has come to research the ancient history of the planet. Then Waxman makes Raven his assistant and she discovers what a heinous monster he really is. In the meantime, Tomas has made the shocking discovery that there was once an ancient civilization on Uranus that was destroyed by alien invaders, leading to questions of who these invaders were and if they are coming back. With a swiftly paced narrative, empathetic characters, astronomical details, an exploration of the moral power of religion and humans' capacity to commit evil, this is an outstanding novel reminiscent of Heinlein's work. Fans of Kim Stanley Robinson and Gregory Benford will eagerly await the next volume.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Bova continues his ambitious project of exploring a near-future human-colonized solar system (which began with 1992's Mars) with this all-too-conventional space adventure, the first of the Outer Planets trilogy. Raven Marchesi flees a life of prostitution in Naples, Italy, for Haven, an artificial habitat circling Uranus, where idealistic Reverend Kyle Umber has set up a nondenominational refuge for Earth's "poor, disenfranchised, forgotten" with the backing of sinister financier Evan Waxman. Raven soon becomes involved with both Waxman, who's running a secret drug trade, and astronomer Tómas Gomez, who's come to Haven to investigate secrets lurking under Uranus's ocean. Not much science animates this stale story, which is more concerned with Waxman's drug deals, romantic encounters, and corruption, and the hints of alien forces bent on destroying humanity amount to too little too late. The characters' relationships and biases are grounded in contemporary attitudes, making it clear that shockingly little social change has occurred in Bova's vision of the future. Readers will be disappointed by this rote, unimaginative work of hard science fiction. (May)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

For nearly 30 years, Bova has been exploring the solar system in his Grand Tour novels; this entry is the first of an Outer Planets trilogy. Through the series, certain themes tend to recur--there are alien life-forms, environmentalists battling wealthy industrialists, scientists clashing with religious fundamentalists--but not here. Of conditions on Earth we learn only that there's still much poverty and hardship and, jarringly, no shortage of well-funded scientists eager to jaunt off to remote planets. An idealist, the Rev. Kyle Umber has commissioned a huge habitat orbiting Uranus to accommodate disadvantaged folk from Earth. He offers education, employment, and, optionally, religion. One such refugee, the beautiful prostitute Raven Marchesi, seizes the opportunity and soon finds herself working for astronomer Tómas Gomez, who wants to know why Uranus' hidden ocean is lifeless. But Raven is determined to snuggle up to the habitat's moneybags sponsor, Evan Waxman. Big mistake: Waxman's idealism is just a cover for narcotics manufacture and distribution. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like we're a very long way from Earth or that there's a large and extremely peculiar planet nearby--the habitat could be parked anywhere. In plotting and development, the book is just as formulaic as it sounds. Take a well-meaning but deluded religious leader, a former sex worker, an obsessive scientist, and a criminal lurking behind a mask of riches. Stir. Decant. Decorate with froth about ancient aliens. Work it through to an unsurprising conclusion. Bland. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.