Phil Giunta's Reviews > Mercury

Mercury by Ben Bova
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Apr 19, 2011

really liked it
Read from March 18 to April 18, 2011

revious to Mercury, I had just completed Ben Bova's As On A Darkling Plain and I can tell you that Dr. Bova certainly enjoys his love triangles. In Mercury, brilliant engineer Mance Bracknell constructs the Skytower, a space elevator, in Ecuador alongside bioengineer Victor Molina. The tower stretches beyond Earth's atmosphere to a space platform in geostationary orbit. Bracknell's success inspires him to break out of his reticent shell and ask his girlfriend, Lara Tierney, for her hand in marriage. Unbeknownst to Bracknell, Molina is also in love with Lara.

Meanwhile, Elliot Danvers, a priest with a religious order known as the New Morality, is assigned to the project to provide spiritual guidance to the project's staff--and to spy on the irreligious scientists who dare build a modern day Tower of Babel, using a barely legal variation of nanotechnology no less. Bracknell's hubris angers the New Morality as well as the Yamagata Corporation. The Skytower will prove to be a much more efficient method for launching satellites into space, negating the need for propulsion systems provided by Yamagata.

When the tower is sabotaged by Yamagata, causing most of it to collapse and kill millions of people across the planet, Bracknell is charged, convicted and exiled from Earth for the rest of his days. Molina, seizing the opportunity to have Lara for himself, commits perjury and testifies against Bracknell. The use of nanotechnology in the Skytower also becomes inimical to Bracknell's case.

Bracknell spends the next ten years living a meaningless life as a crewman aboard a freighter, plotting his revenge on Yamagata, Molina, and Danvers.

Bracknell eventually escapes servitude and has his appearance altered by a specialist at Selene base on Earth's moon--ironically through the use of nanotechnology. He assumes the name of one of the freighter's crewman who was killed when the ship was attacked and destroyed. Bracknell, now Dante Alexios, was the sole survivor and beneficiary of the insurance policy on the freighter. With new found fortune, Alexios sets up an engineering firm on the moon. Eventually, he learns of a project on Mercury to create solar powered satellites--funded by Yamagata Corporation. Alexios wins a bid as a subcontractor on the project, opening the door to his plan for revenge.

Mercury is divided into four parts and no chapter is more than three pages long. The first two parts deal with the Mercury project and introduce the main characters. The reader begins to understand just who Dante Alexios truly is and starts to watch the seeds of his vengeance bear fruit. Part three moves back in time to the Skytower project and the rise and fall of Mance Bracknell. The final part brings the reader back to Mercury and the final execution of Bracknell's plan for revenge.

All told, Mercury is a fast, enjoyable read. I did note more than once that POV tends to jump from one character to another inside of a scene. I always found this to be a distraction and in fact, breaks an often taught rule of story structure. However, the POV changes are made clear so as not to confuse the reader.

Continuing my Ben Bova read-a-thon, the next book on the list is Jupiter
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