Ben Bova



477pp/$24.99/February 2011

Leviathans of Jupiter
Cover by John Harris

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 2001, Ben Bova added Jupiter to the list of stops he had visited during his Grand Tour of the solar system, telling the story of Grant Archer, a young man who has been sent to Jupiter by the New Morality, a group of religious zealots, to spy on the scientific research being done around the planet.  Leviathans of Jupiter is set twenty years later.  The New Morality proved to be a short-lived craze, but Archer, now out from under their thumb and with a scientific reputation of his own, is now in charge of the research station Gold. Leviathans of Jupiter follows Katherine Westfall's journey to Gold to make sure Archer can't challenge her appointment to the directorship of the International Astronautical Authority and Dierdre Ambrose, on her way to Jupiter as her first step to escaping from the asteroid belt and getting on with her own life.

Dierdre's story is, by far, the more interesting of the two.  Raised in near seclusion in the belt by her father, the trip to Jupiter is the chance for her to meet new people and begin to make a name for herself as a microbiologist. Warned by her father to beware the intentions of men, she quickly finds herself in the company of Andy Corvus, a scientist traveling to Jupiter to make contact with the Leviathans discovered by Grant Archer's expedition into Jupiter's clouds twenty years earlier, Max Yeager, a bluff engineer, and Dorn, a cyborg. The three quickly become friends and form the basis for the team that will try to communicate with the Leviathans.

Westfall is less well fleshed out.  Bova provides her with the necessary motivations, a sister killed because of the Archer expedition described in Jupiter and the desire to amass power by being named director of the IAA.  Nevertheless, she comes across as a two-dimensional villain, in some ways similar to those featured in other books of Bova's Grand Tour, most notably Martin Humphries of the Asteroid Wars trilogy. The problem is that her lust for vengeance against the perceived wrong of the death of a sister she never knew overwhelms any rational response she has to the situation. Her desire for power (and, in her mind, security) leads her to try to become head of the IAA for the apparently sole purpose of destroying Archer's career. This irrationality also has overwhelmed any sense of right and wrong she may possibly have had. She suits Bova's purposes, but at the expense of being a well-rounded character.

Eventually, a mission into Jupiter's atmosphere is launched and Westfall has done everything she possibly can to make it a catastrophic failure, which will destroy Archer's career.  Bova drops hints about the outcome that detract from the suspense, although he does offer the possibility that a happy ending is anything but assured.  In fact, the ending of the novel really isn't conclusive and Bova has laid the groundwork for an additional novel following the exploits of the survivors of Leviathans of Jupiter.

Bova has long been tying the history of his solar system together, from the short stories featuring Sam Gunn to the tales set on various planets ranging from Mercury to Saturn. Leviathans of Jupiter continues the process, with references to earlier books ranging from Jupiter to The Aftermath to Moonwar. Although set in a closed system of spacecraft traveling from the Belt to Jupiter and then at Jupiter, there is a strong sense that the characters and their actions are part of a much larger whole.  Because of this, Leviathans of Jupiter is not the best introduction to Bova's Grand Tour series, but once some of the earlier novels have been read, it will be a richly rewarding story.

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