Ben Bova picked his villains well for this fast-paced, popcorn-and-Milk- Duds matinee: Topping the playbill is our sister planet, Venus itself, which Bova matter-of-factly describes as "the most hellish place in the solar system." Sci-fi authors (Bova included) have all but colonized Mars by now, but few have boldly gone to the aluminum-melting, sulfuric-acid-soaked surface of the Morning Star. Venus proves a mighty, unthinking antagonist indeed--frustrating the efforts of sickly but likable rich kid Van Humphries to land there and recover the remains of his older brother Alex, who died two years earlier on another ill-fated mission.
Van gets pushed back and forth between the book's two lesser villains--his mean old cuss of a father, Martin Humphries, who's posted the $10 billion Venus Prize to the first person to return Alex's body, and Lars Fuchs, a belligerent asteroid miner and Martin's arch-nemesis, who's also decided to make a go at the purse.
Characterizations ride coach on this high-adventure flight, but remember that we're talking about Ben Bova here. It's hard to dispute the master's choices as you're following Van's well-researched, thrills-and-chills descent through Venus's pressure-cooker atmosphere. With solid science, a palatable environmental message (how could you resist commenting on greenhouse gases in a book like this?), and an inspiring character arc for unlikely hero Van, Venus delivers guilt-free, man-against-nature SF in a tight, page-turning package. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
In 1993 Bova took readers to Mars and himself onto bestseller lists. Last year's A Return to Mars also sold well. So a narrative about manned exploration of Venus seems an obvious step for this popular author, and Bova's new novel will indeed please his fans, as it offers his usual mix of solid science, serviceable (if sketchy) characterizations and lickety-split plotting with plenty of cliff-hangers. It's late in the 21st century. Three years ago, the first human to visit Venus, Alex Humphries, son of decadent multibillionaire Martin, never returned. Now Martin is offering $10 billion to whoever will retrieve Alex's remains from that planet's hellish surface. Racing against one another for the prize are Alex's aimless younger brother, Van (the story's narrator, who's just been disowned by Martin), and legendary asteroid-miner Lars Fuchs, who detests Martin as much as Martin detests Van. Van's expedition goes bad early on; high above Venus, colonies of alien "bugs" eat through his ship's hull, forcing him and his crewAseveral of whom dieAto seek refuge on Fuchs's stronger craft. Personality conflicts rampage there, particularly between domineering Fuchs and mild-mannered Van, and there's romantic tension between a young female biologist and Van. The real drama, however, arises from revelations that explain the roots of the hatreds among Van, Fuchs and Martin, and during Van's dangerous descent in a small ship to the surface of Venus, which Bova depicts with strong visual imagery as a deadly infernoAalbeit one inhabited by an unexpected life form. This novel clicks along only predictably as Van's coming of age tale, but as a voyage to an unknown world, it excels. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.