Phil Giunta's Reviews > Saturn

Saturn by Ben Bova
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's review
Jun 30, 2012

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Read from March 11 to July 01, 2012

The space habitat Goddard, filled with political exiles, social misfits, scientists, and engineers, is on its way to orbit around Saturn. There, the habitat will become mankind's first offworld colony.

If it can survive the turmoil and drama inherent in the human condition.

Malcolm Eberly had a choice, either spend the rest of his life in a Viennese prison or become the New Morality's watchdog aboard Goddard. Hired on as the manager of human resources, Eberly entertains his own agenda, ignoring the edict of the insidious religious zealots who also happen to be funding the expedition.

Eberly wants control of the habitat and everyone in it. Joining forces with other unsavory types, he suddenly finds himself embroiled in conspiracy, murder, and lies. Eberly has all living quarters and offices bugged, he uses the habitat's chief of security to threaten and coerce, and manipulates everyone and anyone on his way to the top.

Holly Lane is blind too all of this--at first. Joining the habitat project mostly due to her naieve crush on Eberly, Holly soon finds herself the target of Eberly's treachery after she discovers a murder committed by someone in his clique.

Suspicious of Eberly, Holly's older sister Pancho requests the aid of interplanetary stuntman Manuel Gaeta to watch over her. After becoming a media sensation for his stunts on Mars and elsewhere, Gaeta's next objective is to be the first human on Titan. However, the habitat's science director will not have the surface of Saturn's largest moon contaminated.

Enter nanotech expert, Dr. Kris Cardenas. Her very presence on the station rankles the religious types, especially since nanotech is banned on Earth. Dr. Cardenas proposes the use of nanobugs to decontaminate Gaeta's customized space suit before it leaves the airlock. Of course, it isn't long before she's sleeping with the hunky stuntman.

Meanwhile, habitat administrator James Wilmot observes all of this with clinical detachment and reports back to the New Morality HQ in Atlanta. No one but he and his superiors know the true purpose of the habitat.

Unlike the other novels in Ben Bova's Grand Tour series, Saturn is less about science fiction than human relations and political intrigue. About the only SF aspect of the story comes near the end when Gaeta has a change of plans and ends up traversing the rings of Saturn, thereby discovering something completely unexpected about the particles that comprise the rings. We are never treated to an exploration of Titan.

I was not as satisfied with this story as I'd ben with Jupiter, Mercury, and the multiple Mars books which dealt more with exploration of the planets than with the dark side of humanity. I found the characters' ambitions to be too obvious, too cliche'. Eberly and his cohorts may as well have been mustache twirling villains.

Dr. Bova's books always contain a measure of background political intrigue as the New Morality has infiltrated even the top ranks of the Federal Government. Though when an entire SF novel is dedicated to this, it feels like a cheat. It's almost as if Dr. Bova could not devise a better storyline that actually deals with science and exploration. Nevertheless, I will continue on with the Grand Tour series, hoping for better efforts.


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