Saturn–Ben Bova

I was first introduced to Ben Bova about a decade ago by a friend at University. She lent me a book, I read it, gave my feedback, “seems fairly mediocre space trash soap opera” (I was insufferable, I know), and that was that. I knew that he was a purveyor of fairly popular space-themed science fiction. For a somewhat more detailed biography check out either his Wikipedia page or his Amazon page. He is ridiculously prolific, having written more than 120 works.

Summarising the blurb: “Earth groans under the thumb of fundamentalist political regimes. Crisis after crisis has given authoritarians the upper hand. Freedom and opportunity exist in space, for those with the nerve and skill to run the risks. Now the governments of Earth are encouraging many of their most incorrigible dissidents to join a great ark on a one-way expedition, twice Jupiter’s distance from the Sun, to Saturn, the ringed planet that baffled Galileo and has fascinated astronomers ever since. But humans will be human, on Earth or in the heavens-so amidst the idealism permeating Space Habitat Goddard are many individuals with long-term schemes, each awaiting the tight moment. And hidden from them is the greatest secret of all, the real purpose of this expedition, known to only a few….”

This was the paperback thrown in my bag whilst traveling last month (whilst I do prefer my Kindle Paperwhite 3G, sometimes you need a dead-tree backup). It was secondhand, and I recognised the author name, and that’s about all the motivation I need. Actually, sometimes that’s even more than I need!

The book was reasonable, but nothing exceptional. My rather rude comment about space trash soap opera probably holds true–we have a bunch of caricature characters who don’t really develop as the story progresses, a background of a space ship that doesn’t really add to the story it seems to only be present to provide a backdrop to the events that unfold. The story isn’t bad, but is rather a stretch to believe at times.

It’s light reading, the denouement proceeds fairly much as once would expect (with one rather small, jarring exception). It didn’t feel like time wasted, reading this, as I really don’t get an opportunity to read much hard science fiction.

It is available, of course, in a wide variety of formats via Amazon. For some inexplicable and rather irritating reason, I can’t link directly to the Kindle version. Here’s the paperback, and you can find the other versions from there.


Invasion (The Secret World Chronicles Book 1) — Mercedes Lackey (and others)

Let me know when this sounds too much.

X-Men.

Global police force of X-Men.

Alien invasion.

Space Nazis.

(Still hanging in there?)

Angels, a sentient universe, space Nazis, aliens, mysticism, and a global police force of X-Men.

Yup.

Author bio briefly: Mercedes Lackey is a well-established fantasy novel author. She has written more than one hundred novels over a two-decade career, as well as writing lyrics for and recording songs on the Firebird Arts label. Despite this, Invasion was the first novel of hers that I’ve read. Her Amazon page is here.

Invasion is actually a collaborative work with Steve Libbey, Dennis Lee and Cody Martin, with various combinations of authors tackling each of the braided chapters, following a few of the main characters.

Essentially a sci-fi superhero novel, Invasion is set in more-or-less modern-day America, where Metas are tolerated by the general public. Supermen and superwomen, with powers ranging from super-strength, super-speed, mind-reading, psychic manipulation, the ability to fly, Metas are uniformly beautiful, with many part of the Echo law enforcement force. Our narrator, who I believe appears in other Lackey stories, is a mage (dealing with magic rather than superpowers) is collecting the interwoven stories of a variety of metas who survive an attack upon the Earth. All standard fare so far. However, the giant aliens in their death suits are revealed to be space Nazis! Or occult followers from Nazi Germany. Or … something. The story develops in fits and starts, and keeping it all straight isn’t the easiest thing.

We follow at least a dozen main characters whose stories vaguely interweave as they react and adapt in the aftermath of the attacks. And therein lies the problem. There isn’t sufficient time for the characters to develop, for the audience to connect and to understand the motivations of these metas. The collaborative writing is also a little disconcerting at times, as the four authors styles occasionally get a little out-of-sync. However, it’s generally noticeable.

I had to grind through the first half of the book (read on my kindle), and it was a genuine struggle. However, by the time the story really started rolling, I was beginning to genuinely engage with the story, and was quite annoyed when the tale ended on a massive cliff-hanger.

It wasn’t a bad read, but I’m not sure that I’ll be chasing up the next two books in the series. The second book is World Divided: Book Two of the Secret World Chronicle and the third is due out some time in 2013.

There is a podcast version of the story available from the Secret World Chronicle podcast page.

Obligatory Amazon Links

The paperback: The kindle version: