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Venus
Ben Bova
Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 11.7 hours

Venus
Ben Bova
Ben Bova received his doctorate in education in 1996 from California Coast University, a master of arts degree in communications from the State University of New York at Albany (1987) and a bachelor's degree in journalism from Temple University, Philadelphia (1954). Bova has taught science fiction at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he has also directed film courses. He was editorial director of OMNI magazine and, earlier, editor of Analog magazine. He has received Hugos for Best Professional Editor 6 times. His 1994 short story, "Inspiration," was nominated for the SFWA's Nebula Award.

Ben Bova Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Empire Builders
SF Site Review: The Aftermath
SF Site Review: The Silent War
SF Site Review: Tales of the Grand Tour
SF Site Review: Venus
SF Site Review: Return to Mars
SF Site Review: Colony
SF Site Review: Immortality
SF Site Review: Moonwar
SF Site Review: Moonrise

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven Brandt

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"Dad will kill you if he finds out." Alexander Humphries led the first manned expedition to Venus, and became among the first to die there. It was an unexplained equipment malfunction that doomed Alex's ship and crew to rest on the toxic surface of Earth's twin forever. In the two years since, there have been rumours that the malfunction may have been the result of sabotage. Alex's brother, Van, will have to make the long trip to Venus and descend onto the planet's broiling surface to discover the truth of what happened. It's a truth that will make Van question who he is, and that will irrevocably change his life.

"Dad will kill you if he finds out." Van remembers the conversation like it was yesterday. His brother Alex was telling him about his upcoming expedition, and had just revealed the true purpose of the voyage. Alex was an active Green, an environmentalist, and the trip to Venus would provide excellent data and footage of the most extreme planetary greenhouse in the solar system. It would prove invaluable to the Green cause on Earth. Alex and Van's father, billionaire Martin Humphries, on the other hand, was anything but a Green. Green concerns get in the way of profit, and Martin Humphries is all about profit.

"Dad will kill you if he finds out." Van jokes with his older brother. "He knows," Alex assures him. Van has never liked or trusted his father, and the feeling is mutual. Van's mother died in childbirth and Martin has always accused Van of taking his fourth wife, and the only woman he ever truly loved. In light of the mysterious message that Van just received, he has even more reason to be suspicious of the old man. The anonymous message simply said, "Your brother's death was not an accident, and your father is a murderer." He can't help but remember that last conversation with his brother.

Now, two years later, Martin Humphries is offering a reward of $10 billion to anyone willing to go to Venus and bring back his son's remains. Martin is a despicable man, but he is also clever and shrewd. He knows that there are two men that he can count on to go after the prize money: his son Van, whom he just cut off from the family fortune, and his chief business rival, Lars Fuchs. If everything goes as planned, he can kill two birds with one stone, and Martin Humphries is used to getting what he wants.

The stage is set, and the race is on. Martin is clever, but both Van and Lars are wise enough to be wary of the man. They will be on guard, but what they are about to discover in the upper atmosphere of Venus will take them completely by surprise, and will set the rest of the solar system on its heels.

Venus is one of my very favorite audiobooks in Ben Bova's Grand Tour series. It has all the things that I love about Bova's work: interesting and well-developed characters, an intricate plot along with sub-plots to help it along, and of course lots of fascinating details about a planet in our solar system.

One thing I've noticed about Bova is that he likes to use a main character that sort of mirrors the planet in question. In Mars, we had a red planet that was forever frozen in the past, and a red man, a native American, who yearned for the old ways of his ancestors. In Venus, Bova describes a fiery furnace of a planet whose molten core is just waiting to burst through the surface and engulf the whole thing, and in fact, is already beginning the process with the eruption of volcanoes. We also have Lars Fuchs, a man driven by fury and hatred, whose boiling core threatens to overcome the man, and in fact, is already beginning to in the form of mini-strokes. Lars is obsessed with Dante's Inferno and often thinks of Venus as hell itself. There are also hints of Captain Ahab in Fuchs, forever chasing after Martin Humphries, the man who took everything from him, including the woman he loved.

Van also plays heavily into the dynamic between Martin Humphries and Lars Fuchs, because Van's mother is the woman that Martin stole away from Lars. When Lars and Van are forced to team up on Venus, they will discover some things about the woman that will greatly surprise them both. There is an interesting relationship at play here that is only briefly touched on in Venus, but which you can learn a lot more about in Bova's Rock Rats series.

The narration of Venus is capably handled by Stefan Rudnicki, who narrates many of Ben Bova's audiobooks. Rudnicki has a rich and resonant voice that is very easy on the ears. Bova's audiobooks typically have characters of many different nationalities and Rudnicki always handles these very well. Venus is a good story with good characters. There is plenty of action to keep the story moving, and some interesting science too.

Copyright © 2011 Steven Brandt

Steven Brandt spends most of his waking hours listening to audiobooks and reviewing them for his blog, Audiobook Heaven. When not reading or reviewing, Steven is usually playing the saxophone for the entertainment and amusement of his family.


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