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Farside (The Grand Tour) Hardcover – February 12, 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Bova’s latest novel is one of his best, and a classic use of the old sf theme of humanity reaching out for immortality among the stars. An Earth-sized planet has been discovered circling a star 30 light-years away, at the right distance to support life. But does it? If so, is that life possibly intelligent? The answers must come from two high-tech pieces of equipment on the far side of the moon, the largest optical telescope and the largest radio telescope ever built. In the vacuum of space, seeing conditions are perfect; with the Moon blocking Earth’s electronic noise, listening conditions will be equally good. Of course, there are a few problems, apart from political and personal squabbles coming in at a dollar a cartload. All the work has to be done by robots, which can malfunction at the worst possible time without careful and expensive maintenance. Vacuum is fine for optimal seeing conditions; not so fine for preventing micrometeorites from puncturing the spacesuits of workers a long way from the nearest help. Deadlines are missed. Costs overrun. Tension builds. Success seems impossible to the last moments; the moon’s topography makes some scenes literal cliff-hangers. But enduring hope for humanity emerges at last. --Roland Green

Review

“Bova's latest novel is one of his best, and a classic use of the old sf theme of humanity reaching out for immortality among the stars.” ―Booklist (starred review) on Farside

“The sort of gritty, hands-on, you-are-there yarn at which Bova has long excelled.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Farside

“With his customary use of scientific facts to augment his flair for storytelling, Bova brings to life another sf adventure about humanity's future in space.” ―Library Journal on Farside

“Bova's fans and hard SF lovers should flock to his latest novel.” ―Library Journal on Leviathans of Jupiter

“A quick-paced space adventure.” ―Publishers Weekly on Leviathans of Jupiter

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Product Details

  • Series: The Grand Tour
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765323877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765323873
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #713,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had preordered the book hoping for good, solid hard SF from one of the masters. And I can't believe I spent money on the hardcover after reading it.

Literally all the characters are cliché cardboard cutouts without even a hint of personality. Even worse, nobody in this book seems to have any motivation other than the ridiculous proposition that the lead scientist is trying to get a Nobel Price by building the telescopes at Farside. Hint to Ben Bova: That is not how science, scientists or the Nobel committee work.

The book is a slow drag through a thin story where many pages are being spent on "he thought", "he wondered" and "she felt" inner dialogue. The characters are all overwrought by self-doubt and never discuss anything of substance with another person. I may not be much of a writer myself, but one of the core principles of good writing is Show, Don't Tell. This is sadly not the case here, where nothing much is shown to the reader at all.

Much of the key components of the story are very predictable and are announced early. Many of the actions taken by the crew of the lunar base - one would hope these are professionals - are plain stupid.

Many interesting science fiction themes are brought up but never explored. The earth-like world around another star? A classic MacGuffin. The massive telescopes supposedly being built at Farside? Never afford more than a thin paragraph of exploration. The moon base? Tunnels, all alike. Nano Machines? They are very small and apparently propelled by magic.

Also - this was written in 2012 and I would assume is depicting a future around 2100. The web is never mentioned in the book. Nobody EVER looks anything up on a computer. There are no social networks.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I hadn't read anything from Ben Bova in a couple of years, but I enjoyed his earlier Moonrise and Moonwar books.
If you're hoping Farside will continue in the same vein, you're going to be disappointed.

The characters are simplistic and cliché, right down to the 'damsel in distress' and the 'downtrodden hero trying to keep his nose clean'. Characters from his previous Moonbase series make an appearance, but it's only Kris Cardenas who really makes a lasting impression.

This lack of depth, combined with the writing, had me wondering if this was Bova's attempt to break into the young adult market.

If you're looking for a quick and easy read, you could do worse than Farside. If you're a fan of Bova or you like your sci-fi to have a degree of substance, skip it or wait until it's on sale.
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Format: Hardcover
A blind astronomer in charge of an observatory being built on the far side of the moon sacrifices safety in his obsession for winning a Nobel Prize.
A highly competent engineer falsely convicted of negligent homicide on Earth tries to redeem himself on the moon by taking performance-enhancing drugs.
A beautiful woman seeks revenge for a broken heart, heedless of the collateral damage she may cause.

These are just a few of the flawed characters populating Farside.

In some ways, this book feels like a 1950s detective novel--but without the detective. The characters and prose seem more suited to that genre than a modern space opera. When, in the first chapter, a young post-doc reflects on what a hunk the guy sitting near her on the rocket ship is, I began to regard it as such rather than as serious science fiction. If you look at it this way, this is a fine story. There is intrigue, mystery, believable characters with understandable (although often juvenile) motivations... Unfortunately, none of these things fit well in this setting.

The observatory station feels like a regular office complex (but with airlocks). The characters seem like average people.

And that's the problem. This isn't most places. It's an observatory being built on the moon. It includes the largest interferometer ever constructed, which is intended to make observations of what may be the first truly earthlike planet ever discovered, and which all known laws of astrophysics say should not exist in orbit around Sirius. In other words, it's an important place from a scientific standpoint. One would expect that only the best and the brightest would be working there. The characters in this book are clearly not that exceptional.

This is still an engaging story.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The Grand Tour is a series of partly interconnected novels, although most of them are completely independent of each other. The series is deals with humanities exploration and colonization of the solar system where each book is typically thematically centered around a planet or moon. In this recent publication, it is the dark side of the moon. And, to put it bluntly, there’s not much light in it.

The story, in a few words, revolves around the construction of a large optical telescope on the far side of the moon that is supposed to be aiming at the nearest earth-like planet (a few parsec from Earth around Sirius C). At the same time, there is a competing project to build a similar telescope in low earth orbit. If you forget everything you learned about optical resolution and the wavelength of visible light, proceed with caution. What could still have been a pretty interesting plot quickly falls apart when the stage and the characters are sketched out, though.

Many people have complained about the characters being cut-and-paste, cliche, and for the most part extremely sexist. What I found most irritating is how one-dimensional and self-centered all of them are. So here we are presented with a group of idealistic, who do not have to worry about the use of nanotechnology on the moon because there is literally no crime. The same people on the other hand are breaking apart at the smallest of problems and start accusing each other of being responsible for mistakes that were made. Space and technology are the new frontier in the Grand Tour, but it starts to paint not only a weird but a damaging picture of modern scientific endeavors and research. Which is doubly sad, because I don’t think this is intended.
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