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The Precipice (The Asteroid Wars, Book 1) Hardcover – October 26, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
The author of some 100 books, most of them either science fiction or science fact, six-time Hugo-winner Bova (Jupiter; Venus) is a longtime exponent of the industrialization of outer space, preferably by privately owned corporations, and here he continues in this vein. Earth is on the brink of disaster; in fact, it may have already toppled over the precipice. As a result of the greenhouse effect, the oceans have risen catastrophically and half of humanity faces immediate starvation. Two very rich industrialists, Dan Randolph and Martin Humphries, believe that they may have the key to the planet's salvation. Using new innovations in fusion and nanotechnology, they want to send an experimental spaceship to the asteroid belt. The goal is to bring back enough raw materials to begin to move Earth's heavy industries into outer space, thus greatly reducing pollution and providing enough capital to transform the world. Randolph, despite his many years as a captain of industry, is still something of a starry-eyed optimist who truly wishes to save the planet. Humphries, however, is made of much more selfish stuff; his primary goals are to destroy Randolph and save only as much of Earth's civilization as he personally can rule. Bova has been writing variations on this novel for decades, and he knows his material well. Unfortunately, his work is often marred by a plodding prose style, somewhat stereotypical characters and deeply ingrained sexism. Still, this novel should appeal to Bova's regular audience, a mixture of traditional hard SF fans, space enthusiasts and libertarians.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The greenhouse effect has caused catastrophic changes to Earth's atmosphere, guaranteeing economic, social, and enviromental collapse in the near future. When Dan Randolph and Martin Humphries enter a business partnership to seek new resources in the Asteroid Belt as the only means of saving the planet, only one of them has Earth's best interests in mind. Bova's latest novel, a series opener, highlights current environmental issues and scientific speculation while simultaneously telling a tale of heroes and villains that should appeal to most fans of hard sf.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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- Dan Randolph is the main character of other Ben Bova novels, Powersat (2005), Privateers (1985), Empire Builders (1993), & Precipice (2001).
- This novel is the 4th Dan Randolph novel in the Grand Tour Series.
- This novel is the 8th novel in the Grand Tour Series.
"Precipice" continues the Grand Tour series with everything you would expect from a Dan Randolph book. "Precipice" focuses very strongly on Dan Randolph, the aging CEO of Astro Manufactering's, goal to save the planet earth from a man-made "Greenhouse Cliff" by trying to move manufacturing from earth-based factories to outer-space asteroid mining. Dan is a capitalist, wealthy industrialist entrepreneur, former astronaut turned environmentalist who will do anything and give anything to try and convince the world, or just his investors, that it is possible to launch a long range vessel to the asteroid belt, drag a rock back to a near earth orbit to extract the minerals and it is possible to do this at a profit. Dan cannot do this alone. Together with a billionaire who offers the designs to a fusion based propulsion system at a price, an old friend who offers the financial backing of a city desperate for clean water, a ballsy pilot who will do anything for a buck, a Nobel Scientist turned lunar exile by the use of Nanotechnology and a former lunar fugitive turned personal security guard
Dan Randolph will build a ship, take it to the belt and bring back an asteroid to mine for minerals or die trying.
I loved this book. It was a very well written story that does what Ben Bova does best which is bring back old beloved characters, create new and interesting characters that you as the reader can feel an emotional connection to and still deliver it all in a neatly wrapped up package with no loose ends by the last page. I love this about Ben Bova and I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction, space saga's or soap opera's.
Print Errors -
I own this book in paperback, hardcover and Kindle. The Kindle printing has a disturbingly high rate of errors that the paper printings do not have. I do not understand how or why this book has so many print errors. Other Ben Bova books in the Grand Tour series do not have the same amount of errors at all. I rated this book based on the contents of the story and not the content of the printing. However were I to rate this book on it's printing alone I would knock the rating down from 5 stars to 2 stars. I have read books with even more errors than this. Books that were completely broken. This book is not broken it is however at time incoherent. When I came upon the first errors I wasn't sure if the words I was reading were abbreviations, tech terms or misspellings. "Ihl" in one sentence is "the". I can't even imagine how that sort of error happens but it does happen throughout the book every few pages or so. So if you want to read this book and do not "need" to read the book digitally I highly recommend this novel be read in a paper format. I also highly recommend this book be read it is a very very good book.
Amazon do something about the print errors in this book. This is a very good story and Ben Bova deserves better than the halfassed nonsense you are allowing here.
Like many of the Grand Tour books, The Precipice takes place a few years after the events of its predicesor, Moonwar. While I won't try to read the mind of Ben Bova, it appears to be the first book to really try to fuse the books that revolved around Dan Randolph (PowerSat, Privateers, Empire Builders) with those that revolved around Doug Stravenger (Moonbase, Moonwar). The Grand Tour universe is not a seamless environment, and this might affect the enjoyment of people who like their fiction worlds to be well controlled and precise. If you don't mind a little suspension of disbelief in terms of timelines and the questionable age of some of the people involved, read on.
In The Precipice, the Earth stands on the brink of collapse. Massive climate change has killed millions, the world is over populated and resources are stretched to the breaking point. Religious fundamentalist of The New Morality continue to strengthen their hold over national and international government bodies, creating a massive, often backwards bueracracy. Dan Randolph, CEO of Astro Corporation is near the end of the rope financially, as Astro's corporate profits continue to fall. However, when he is approached by a man with a solution (Humphries), he can't say no, even though he suspects Humphries is trying to gain control of Astro Corp and oust him from the board of directors. Humphries has developed a new engine that will greatly reduce transit time to the asteroid belt from months to weeks, making mining the vast metal, mineral and water resources there a real possibility, one that will not only bring in huge stacks of cash, but give the resource deprived Earth a chance to recover from the effects of runaway climate change. Randolph, Humphries and Doug Stravenger (as representative of the people of the new Moon nation of Selene) form a three way partnership to build a fusion drive space craft and test its capabilities to reach the asteroid belt, save the Earth, and make a lot of money.
There are several significant issue I had with The Precipice. First, it's just kind of boring. Perhaps it's because I'm on my 8th Bova book in a row, but The Precipice was like reading the most average parts of all seven of the previous Grand Tour novels. I've said this a few times in my reviews of The Grand Tour books, but it's just so very Ben Bova. Part love triangle, part hard sci-fi, part action thriller...except this time the love triangle is at its most infantile (Evil Humphries falls in love with beautiful Amanda, pilot of the Astro Corp ship going to the belt, who falls in love with geeky tertiary-character scientist...will Humphries risk Amanda's life just to make more money? Of course he will, he's the bad guy), the thriller is at its least thrilling, and the hard sci-fi provides just enough kick to make me turn another page (although I will say that the brief number of pages spent covering the exploration of a pair of asteroids are pretty cool). I don't like it when people accuse authors of "phoning it in" just to crank out a new book, but honestly, I can picture Bova sitting behind his word processor thinking to himself that no one will read more than a few of the Grand Tour books and that he can just keep writing the same three books over and over again.
Beyond that, one of the problems with the Grand Tour series of books is that, while the good guys always seem to win in the end, things on Earth keep getting worse. As is the case in PowerSat, Privateers, Moonbase, Moonwar, etc. our protagonists always come out ahead to one degree or another in the end, but starting with the next related book, things always get worse. Finally, as a techno-thriller, The Precipice just didn't have the thrill element that made previous Grand Tour books page tuners. While there is a tense moment here and there, it just never really came together to leave me eager for the climax, despite the fact that two long term Grand Tour characters die in this book.
The Precipice isn't horrible by any means, but in terms of its quality compared to other books in the Grand Tour series, it was pretty weak.
Bova does a superb job of keeping all of the stories in the "Asteroid Wars" series connected. When you begin the next book, you feel as if you have not skipped anything. Bova is at his best regarding story telling and character building.
I did not give a rating of 5 stars for the following reasons.
--The story does not discover something new. I like Sci-Fi to examine science discoveries human or otherwise.
--There are no mysteries. It is a typical story about business vs. government and human greed vs. altruism.
--Bova lends credence to the notion of climate change.
I recommend this story to Bova fans and Sci-Fi fans.
Have a good read.
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I'm a fan of Bova's writing and his editing.Read more