Thursday, March 5, 2015


Ben Bova
Tor, 2013 (my copy was gracefully provided by Tor for review)
Size: Average (my hardback copy has 367 pages)
Theme: Sci-fi thriller
Narrative: third-person
Main character: several
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

There is a side of the moon which is perpetually facing away from Earth, making it a prime location for placing an astronomy observatory to explore space without interference from all the ambient light that exists in any place on Earth. However, as a set of huge telescopes is built there, a competitive endeavor is attempting to setup an array of mirrors in solar orbit which would function as an optical interferometer with unprecedented capability to observe deep space. As problems start arising in the lunar colony observatory, the race for who is able to first visualize and analyze an apparently Earth-like planet - dubbed New Earth - will soon turn into a struggle for survival in the inhospitable conditions of the moon.

This novel is a thriller with a dash of sci-fi. It includes some current topics, such as nanomachines and human performance enhancement, but it is not hard sci-fi, and the technical details and descriptions are easy to follow. There are a few space walks and short rocket trips, but most of the story develops within the observatory. There are half a dozen main characters around which the story revolves, and they are reasonably well explored, although the story being short does not leave much room for great insights into each of them.

It was the first novel by Ben Bova that I ever read, and I quite enjoyed reading it. However, given the fame of the author, I was expecting a more vibrant and complex story. Although nothing is very unique about the plot, the narrative is successful. At times, the pace is a bit slow but did not get to the point of boredom. Overall, it works very well as light reading. I would recommend it to sci-fi fans, particularly those that like space thrillers.

Related work:
This book is part of the Grand Tour series, which deals with space exploration and colonization. Although the story can be read independently, it can be said to have a follow-up in the book New Earth (already available).