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The Silent War
Ben Bova
Tor, 380 pages

The Silent War
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: 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 Michael M Jones

Far from Earth, in the depths of the Asteroid Belt, a silent war rages, and to the winner will go the untold riches and resources to be found by mining the asteroids. Two major factions have emerged: Humphries Space Systems and Astro Corporation. Bitter rivals and opponents for years, their feud has carried on even after the tragic death of Astro founder and former industrialist-adventurer, Dan Randolph.

Someone is willing to kill for what lies out there, and innocent miners, neutral parties just trying to make a living in the darkness of space, are paying the price, their bodies left to drift lifelessly where they'll never be found. But who stands to gain from inciting an all-out war between Astro and Humphries? Is it Martin Humphries, a ruthless man who's proven capable of anything to achieve his goals? Is it notorious pirate Lars Fuchs, a former pawn of the big corporations, who lost the only woman he loved to Martin Humphries? Is it the Yamagata Corporation, seeking to replace the others as a major player? Or has Pancho Lane decided to end things once and for all? The answers are out there, but if the war heats up anymore, they may never be revealed.

The Silent War is the third book in The Asteroid Wars, a trilogy which fleshes out a critical period in Bova's farflung saga of humanity's spread throughout the space system. It's all here: Pancho Lane's most ambitious gambles to date, Lars Fuchs' boldest strike at Martin Humphries, Martin's own deadly attempts to gain the upper hand, the worst disaster to hit humanity in space yet, and of course, the path of humanity's future.

Whenever I want old-fashioned hard science fiction with sharp characterization and plenty of adventure, I immediately turn to the work of Ben Bova, who has produced some of the very best in the field time and again. He has long-since mastered the delicate art of balancing scientifically accurate, entirely plausible projections of the future, with enough action and suspense to carry the plot, and his characters are memorable and fully realized. Bit by bit, book by book, he has constructed a truly fascinating portrait of the next few centuries, examining the slow, steady spread and exploration of the solar system, beginning with our earliest steps off the planet, and reaching as far as Saturn (for now). Bova, always a visionary (he actually predicted such things as the space race, video games, virtual reality, electronic books, water ice deposits on the Moon, and zero gravity sex), has spent decades looking ahead and trying to inspire the rest of us to follow. His view of the world to come is as believable as it is cautionary, a warning to us all as well as an encouragement to fulfill our destiny.

The only real problem I had with The Silent War is the same as anyone might have with any prequel. We've already seen what the future has in store for certain major characters in previously published, chronologically later books like Venus; therefore, some of the dramatic impact is lost, knowing ahead of time who lives and dies. However, that's balanced out by the sheer enjoyment of seeing how some characters get from point A to point B in their careers, and how things develop.

If you like classic science fiction, or if you like believable future fiction, then you can't go wrong with Ben Bova, and The Silent War is just the latest in a long string of excellent offerings from him. Be sure to read the first two in this particular sequence, The Precipice and Rock Rats, before picking this one up.

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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