Sunday, March 28, 2010


2001 Ben Bova

In talking with a friend I had been lamenting the fact that all of the good sci-fi I've read lately seems to date from 1985 or earlier, and that there was nothing from this last decade that has been noteworthy in any regard. So I had made a point for my next read to be something from at least the last decade. The cover art on this one is what drew me in.

Before this point I actually hadn't read any Bova, I had of course heard the name but that's it. So it was a real pleasure to discover this. I liked Jupiter a lot, for different reasons. It has a a mix of plausible sci-fi, compelling character drama and real adventure. The setting is somewhat original in that in this future, Earth governments have been more or less taken over by a religious organization called the New Morality. The background is that after major famines and disaster society fell back to a stricter outlook where religious powers gained sway. The protagonist himself is a both a believer and scientist. As an atheist I found this character combination very interesting. Though the setting on Earth is important, it is the space station orbiting Jupiter, and later, the giant planet itself, where most of the novel takes place. The thrust of the novel is that our protagonist must discover the reason behind the station's manned flights to the Jovian atmosphere.

The science is solid but doesn't go into overboard hard sci-fi. At the same time it's believable and won't offend someone with a basic knowledge of science. The most fascinating part is the descriptions of the manned flights into Jupiter's atmosphere. Bova realizes that the atmosphere gradually condenses to a liquid state and this is an important point regarding the jovian biosphere (of course that was coming). Most of what follows is outright fancy but well done. That was my favorite part, and Bova captures the tension of exploring such a weird and hostile environment.

Anyway I loved this one. The pacing, character development, and climax are spot-on. Sometimes I can't focus on a book long enough to finish it but this one I ripped through in just a few days. It's good.