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Venus Hardcover – April, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews
Book 15 of 19 in the Grand Tour Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031287216X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312872168
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,277,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By W. D Swingley on March 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There are many different sci-fi novels out there, but very few actually focus on our sister planet. The harsh environs of near Venus offer a strong antagonist in Bova's novel. Ban Bova is well known for his visualization and grand scheme and this book is no exception. The characters are well developed an fit together to give the story edge. While it is a little slow at times, the action sequences can take the breath away and prevent you from putting the book down. Definitely a good read if you are a Bova fan. If not, try reading his earlier books first because he is known to subtly weave his plot lines between books.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Venus (2000) is the first SF novel in the Planet Novel series. It takes place a decade or more after the Asteroid Wars. Van is the second son of Martin Humphries. His mother died during or shortly after childbirth, so Martin often accuses Van of causing her death. He is shorter than most men (and many women), so Martin has called him runt for as long as Van can remember. Van accepted this psychological abuse as only proper; he doesn't even question the right or justice of such remarks.

In this novel, Martin Humphries has offered a reward of ten billion dollars for the retrieval of the remains of Alex, his first son, from Venus. Since Van has always revered his older brother, he announces that he will be making an attempt to recover the body. He hires Tomas Rodriguez to design an appropriate spaceship and to supervise construction of the Hesperos. He also intends to appoint Tomas as Captain, but Martin foists Desiree Duchamp upon him as the Captain; Van is finally forced to select Duchamp over Rodriguez, but insists that Tomas be second-in-command.

Besides Duchamp and Rodriguez, Van's crew includes three technicians, Dr. Waller, and Marguerite Duchamp, a biologist and Desiree's duplicate or clone. The captain has bumped the astronomer to add Marguerite to the crew. After all, she doesn't want to leave her daughter in the lustful hands of old humper Martin.

Martin reports that Lars Fuchs, an old enemy, is building a ship in the Belt to take to Venus to win the prize money. Of course, Van worries about the competition and listens closely to Martin's comments about Fuchs. As it happens, Fuchs's ship gets to Venus prior to the Hesperos.

Marguerite is certain that the high clouds around the planet will contain life.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I started reading this tale, I was less than impressed with Ben Bova's choice of a protagonist. But, the reader quickly begins to empathize with Van Humphries, the somewhat sickly, younger son of billionaire, Martin Humphries.
The plot develops as Martin-still mourning the lost of his first son Alex; whose spaceship crashed on the first manned expedition to Venus-withdraws his financial support for Van. Simultaneously, Martin announces a $10 billion Venus Prize to the first person who recovers Alex's remains from the planet's scorching surface. Reluctantly, Van rises to the challenge, and puts together an expedition in search of his monetary independence.
In a well-paced tale, Van encounters incredible dangers and a determined rival, Lars Fuchs (his fathers arch-enemy), as he descends through Venus's hellish atmosphere. Van experiences real character growth as he struggles to overcome everything his shipmates and Venus can throw at him.
You know the writing is good when you stay up late because you've got to find out what happens next. That's what happened to me when I reached the book's climax.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I just finished this book on tape. Had I not been behind the wheel for 1000 miles, I probably would not have completed it. The plot is elementary and completely predictable. The chapter titles in general are able to summarize the entire plot in 1-3 words. The main character's personna is built around a medical condition that is completely untenable, particularly with respect to rapidity of symptoms. A number of factual errors regarding Venus and the mechanics of space flight are made. The writer seems to have a limited bag of cliche' phrases which are sighted often (also in other offerings from him). The ultimate outcome is predictable from chapter #1 and no surprises, apart from occasional random acts of violence, are seen.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I approached this novel as a fan of good literature, not as a SF fan, so maybe I am the wrong audiance. But after recently reading SF classics like Stapledon's Last and First Men and Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea I have begun to understnad what good SF is and how powerful it can be. SF can be great lit. Unfortunatly this novel is not an example of that and it pales in comparison to those novels. Bova cares very little for his characters, he ignores his plot and uses all the aspects of storytelling as merely a vehicle to talk about the possibilities of treking to Venus. I admit some of his scientific ideas appear well researched and are very interesting, but the rest of the book is packed with cliches, flat characters and rediculous plot devices. This may appeal to fans of Bova, or fans of SF, but not to someone looking for a great story or good literature.
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