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Ben Bova
Tor Books, 416 pages

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: 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 Donna McMahon

When billionaire Martin Humphries offers a prize of ten billion dollars to the first person to reach the surface of Venus and retrieve the body of his son Alex, he gets an unexpected taker. Alex's younger brother, Van, always worshipped his heroic big brother -- and anyway he needs the money. Dad just cut off his allowance.

Letting nothing stand in his way -- not his timidness, his inept social skills, his bad health, or his total lack of knowledge about anything scientific -- Van puts together an expedition which he hopes will be the first to successfully land on Venus and get back again.

Ben Bova has been writing science fiction since the 40s, and he certainly hasn't lost his ability to tell a story. The plot of Venus is far-fetched and melodramatic, and a few sprinkles of contemporary references simply don't bring it into the 21st century, but what the heck. Bova's pacing is good, there's lots of action, and a great deal of technical data about Venus is delivered without impeding the flow of the story.

As with most old style space operas, the weakest part of this book is the characters. Bova makes a game attempt at characterization with his protagonist , Van, without quite succeeding. And the other characters fall far short, especially the eccentric Lars Fuchs, (think Captain Ahab of the asteroid miners). Bova also strikes a very flat note in his depiction of Fuchs' crew, describing them in loaded terms as "dour" "blank-faced Asians" who "jabber" in their own tongue -- a racist tone that reminded me of Charlie Chan movies.

Still, this is a readable book, whether you're fascinated by Venus or not. Unlike some other famous SF writers I could mention, Ben Bova isn't just coasting on his name. Venus is an old-fashioned hard SF adventure story that delivers lots of action and some imaginative, informed speculation about the planet Venus.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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