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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mercury by Ben Bova

Mercury: Planet Novel #4 (The Grand Tour) is Ben Bova's fourth planetary sci-fi novel, preceded by Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. In this book, Bova incorporates his usual suspects of plots: nanotechnology, planetary travel, evil corporations, romance and a troubled protagonist. It's a fast read, if somewhat predictable.

The book is divided into four sections.

It starts on the planet Mercury with Dante Alexios working for corporate mogul, Saito Yamagata (a carryover character from previous Bova books), to harness energy from the sun on the planet. Little does he know that he is one of three people with a past connection...and that Dante Alexios is not really Dante Alexios, but Mance Bracknell, an exile for the murder of millions of people.

The next section goes back in time ten years to when Mance Bracknell was a talented engineer and was the leader of the project to raise a space elevator near Quito, Ecuador. The elevator was successfully built but sabotage brought the tower down and caused the deaths of over 4 million people. Mance was quickly scapegoated in the courts and exiled from Earth.

We then follow Mance in his quest to escape his exile. He is sent to the mining center on Ceres, in the Asteroid Belt, where he is picked up to work on a transport vessel. After an attack he is able to escape and change his identity to Dante Alexios. He has almost forgotten his past when he hears about Yamagata's plan for capturing energy from the sun on Mercury. He plans his revenge.

The final section brings the reader back to the present on Mercury as Mance/Dante carries out his revenge on Victor Molina, a former friend, astrobiologist and colleague in the space elevator project and betrayer at his trial; Bishop Elliot Danvers, the New Morality representative who ratted out secrets of the project; and ultimately Yamagata, who he thinks secretly ordered the elevator razed.

This was a pretty quick read featuring some neat science. The space elevator has been done before by Arthur C. Clark and Kim Stanley Robinson, but it still is quite awe-inspiring. Nanotech is a recurring theme is most of Bova's latest books, especially since the Moon series. I was somewhat disappointed with the ending. I think the author was trying to leave some openings for a sequel, but the protagonist's revenge seemed unsatisfying and incomplete. Otherwise, it's a good solid novel by a respected sci-fi writer.


Mel Odom said...

I haven't gotten around to this one yet. I've got it, but I read a Bova book and I'm set for a while. I just finished up his first Mars book not too long ago.

Anonymous said...

I've always been big on planetary sci-fi. His Mars books are pretty good as are the moon books.

I almost picked up Titan the other day...instead I picked up the new Tolkien book. I'm interested to see how it soon as I finish my Modesitt book.

So many little time. ;-)