Eric_W's Reviews > Jupiter

Jupiter by Ben Bova
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's review
Nov 15, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in January, 2003

As a rule, I am not an avid reader of science fiction, but every now and again I' run across a writer or work that tweaks my interest and I' start reading or listening to it. Jupiter is a great read. Astrophysicist Grant Archer has just married but has been assigned to the Jupiter space station for his obligatory two years of community service. The New Morality, a rigid religious coalition, runs earth, and they want Grant, son of a minister and a believer, to spend four years spying on the scientists at the station.

The New Morality believes they are up to something. Their greatest fear is that something might be discovered that might cast doubt upon the religious beliefs by creating questions in the minds of the believers, so there is a struggle between science and religion. Grant represents a meld of the two, having little difficulty with their reconciliation. He' not happy with the assignment, because it means being away from his new wife for a long period of time, and the New Morality has ruled that the trip to Jupiter on a slow freighter, which takes a year is leisure time, and thus does not count toward his total service, meaning he' be gone six years instead of the already burdensome four years. He' even more perplexed because he won' be able to work on his doctorate at the station, since most of the research being done there relates to biology, nothing having to do with astrophysics. The director of the station, Dr. Wo, is suspicious of him, and Grant finds himself doing menial lab assistant work in the aquarium. He is puzzled by the presence of dolphins and an enormous gorilla that are being used, he later learns, to study communication between humans and other species. He' therefore shocked to learn that a crew is being prepared for another mission deep into the Jovian oceans, several thousands of miles deep, preparation that requires the implantation of biochips into the crew, and working in the spaceship/submarine, which requires the crew to breathe a liquid material that contains enough oxygen to sustain life at the tremendous pressures of the Jovian sea. There is also life deep in the seas, and that' why Dr. Wo has been studying communication between species. If you have a weak gag reflex, you must skip over the description of Grant' first experience being prepared for the trip into the Jovian oceans. He is plunged headfirst into this cold liquid. Every nerve in his body tells him not to breath, even though he knows he' survive the experience, but the description is guaranteed to get your bile moving.

I won' reveal anything about the life forms of the deep. It' enough to say that Bova has quite an imagination. I have no idea how much of the science about Jupiter is accurate, but the little I checked seems accurate (related to size, content of the oceans, the moons and their periodicity, etc.). The machinations of the political and religious groups is believable. It' got mystery, drama and great adventure. Bova has written other planet-based books (Mars, Venus) that, according to reviews, pit the New Morality against science.

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