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Tales of the Grand Tour
Ben Bova
Tor, 382 pages

Tales of the Grand Tour
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: 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 Michael M Jones

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For quite some time now, I've been a fan of Bova's "Grand Tour" series of novels, which have slowly but surely filled in the not-so-distant future of mankind, as we poke and prod at our boundaries, and explore the solar system. Mars, Return to Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus all look at their titular planets with Bova's customary blend of cutting-edge scientific accuracy and imaginative speculation. Moonrise and Moonwar deal with the colonization and fight for independence of the first colonies on the Moon, while The Precipice and The Rock Rats take a look at a war for control over the vast resources of the Asteroid Belt. Empire Builders focuses on industrialist-hero Dan Randolph, a visionary who faces immense challenges as he tries to prevent ecological disaster on Earth. Bit by bit, these books have created a farflung tapestry, filled with recurring and overlapping characters, sharp plots, and edge-of-the-seat suspense.

Tales of the Grand Tour is a collection of excerpts from the above books, and short stories relating to the grand overview, featuring a number of familiar characters and offering the occasional insight into events detailed elsewhere. Most, if not all, of this material has been published before.

"Sam and the Flying Dutchman" focuses on one of Bova's recurring characters, a fast-talking rogue named Sam Gunn, whose adventures have been collected previously as Sam Gunn, Unlimited, and Sam Gunn Forever. In this particular story, he and his not-so-faithful assistant Gar undertake a secret, dangerous mission for the world's richest, most recognizable woman, a mission which just happens to get Sam off Earth just in time to avoid his impending nuptials. The consequences of Sam's actions will resonate for years to come, having an effect on some major players down the road. "Monster Slayer" is a gripping tale of one of the first heroes to leave Earth behind. "Fifteen Miles" is actually part of another cycle of stories reprinted as The Kinsman Saga; it's a tale of heroism and desperation on the Moon during the earliest days of its exploration. In "Muzhestvo," written as a short story and later incorporated into Mars, we see half-Navajo geologist Jamie Waterman, a major character in that book and its sequel, back when he was still struggling for an appointment to the Mars mission. "Red Sky at Morning" is an atmospheric excerpt from Return to Mars, in which the intrepid team of explorers and cosmonauts must survive a deadly Mars dust storm. "Greenhouse Chill" is set early on in the sequence, during the time when the greenhouse effect threatens to spark a new ice age, threatening disaster for humanity. "High Jump," my favorite story in the collection, looks at the first man to actually set foot on Venus' surface, a daredevil feat certain to spell death if anything at all goes wrong. What kind of man would risk his life and not even get the credit? A man willing to do it for love.

"Death on Venus" is taken from Venus. When catastrophe strikes a team of explorers racing to be the first to conquer the secrets of our neighboring planet, it tests their limits, and sets the stage for adventure and intrigue amidst the mists. "The Man Who Hated Gravity" looks at an innovative new use for a low-gravity environment, offering hope to a man who'd lost all hope. "Appointment in Sinai" follows the story of a rejected candidate for the Mars mission, while "Sepulcher" examines a pivotal moment in the Asteroid Wars. Finally, "Leviathan" is excerpted from Jupiter, and tells a story of alien-human first contact... from the point of view of the alien.

On one hand, I really enjoyed this collection, as I do all new Bova releases. On the other, it felt a little too much like reruns, given that I've read all the other books in the Grand Tour cycle already, and much of this material has either been excerpted from those books, or reprinted in other Bova collections. The one major benefit of Tales of the Grand Tour is that it collects all of these stories together for the first time, and actually acts as the ideal sampler for the series as a whole. Completists and newcomers alike will find this book enjoyable, and it's a nice treat while we wait for the next new novel in the series.

Copyright © 2004 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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