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As on a Darkling Plain
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As on a Darkling Plain

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  211 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Earthlings are sent to Saturn's largest moon to investigate machines that were left behind centuries ago by an alien race.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 15th 1991 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 1972)
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Nov 29, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is an obscure novel and it deserves to be. As hard science fiction it's not a complete disaster, although it also isn't particularly interesting or cohesive. As a novel which purports to have a plot, characters, drama, etc., it is a complete disaster. It's poorly structured - really more three short stories, plus a brief prelude, than a novel - and the one section I did like, the first of the three stories, has only one (ridiculous) connection to the central narrative. By far the worst part ...more
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Classic sci-fi with a human story focus. Enjoyable enough to follow along the investigation laid out within.
Phil Giunta
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of Ben Bova's earliest stand alone novels, As on a Darkling Plain, is a fast paced adventure that contains refreshingly little to no fluff. However, the editing is also noticeably abrupt in some of the scenes.

There are machines on Saturn's moon Titan that were placed there by an unknown alien intelligence. They're still working, yet their exact function remains a mystery, one that literally drives Dr. Sydney Lee insane to the point of attempted suicide.

The story revolves around three centr
I hate that I live in a world where 3 stars is something I feel like I need to apologize for. It's really probably 3 and 1/2 for me, but there is not option for that here. So I decided to round down instead of up.

I don't know, I have too many 4 and 5 star books I guess.

The quick and gritty version: Liked it. Sometimes a book written as long ago as this one can be real dated, it's a hardish SF novel set in the indeterminate future where jaunting through the solar system isn't that big a deal - S
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
This book has an intriguing concept and it kept me interested. Unfortunately the ending was a pretty big let down. There are mysterious machines on Saturn's moon Titan which were built by an unknown extraterrestrial race. All throughout the book we're led to believe there is some mind-bending, nefarious purpose behind them. When we finally find out what that purpose is it makes you feel like you wasted your time reading the book.

Also, a good chunk of the book is spent describing a manned mission
John (JP)
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the prequel to Bova's debut novel the Star Conquerors. It answers the question what is the purpose of the Great Machines on Titan. These machines get a brief mention in Star Conquerors yet the implications of their presence is the motivation behind the entire trilogy. The story revolves around three central characters involved in a love triangle, scientists Syndey Lee and Marlene Ettinger, and soldier/astronaut Bob O'Banion as they try to uncover the secrets of the Great Machines. The bo ...more
Roger Bailey
I read this many years ago and I was hoping that it would be just as good the second time around. Alas, nostalgia often causes one to have fonder memories than reality dictates. Nevertheless, I really do think it is a really good book. Humanity has finally explored the solar system and started on the beginnings of interstellar travel. As the exploration proceeds, though, it becomes apparent that people from Earth have already been in the places that are being explored and that beings from elsewh ...more
Mar 22, 2016 rated it liked it
A fun, breezy attempt at classic "big idea" sci-fi, written well enough for it not to matter that it was apparently an entry somewhere in the middle of a loosely defined "series." This is my second Bova novel, and it holds up my impression of him as an author that writes classic style sic fi for the more causal-minded reader. This was a great "used paperback on the nightstand for reading at bedtime" kind of book.
Jamie Moynihan
Jul 14, 2014 rated it liked it
A quick explorer scifi read with interesting idea. Mystery artifacts which we dare not tamper with until we can figure out what they're actually doing, exploration in Jupiter's atmosphere and of nearby solar systems.

I didn't much care for the Lee character. I didn't much care for how either of the male leads treated the female love interest. It just didn't seem to ring true.

Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Mysterious Big Dumb Objects have been found on Titan. It appears that they have been placed there by the “Others”, who will return to threaten mankind. Although somewhat disjointed and lacking focus, I nevertheless enjoyed this story of mankind under an unknown threat. The novel is vaguely connected with the Orion series.
Peter Hutt Sierra
Mar 14, 2016 rated it liked it
A great premise, but the execution is unremarkable. The ending is abrupt and the story could be better fleshed out. Giant, ancient, and inscrutable machines built on Titan by an elder race? An ancient war which devastated humanity and numerous other forgotten worlds? These ideas had so much potential.
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jovian sea life, Neanderthals in other star systems, and a strange machine hidden on one of Saturn's moons that no one understands. I don't know why this book was given somewhat low marks on here. I enjoyed it a great deal.
Cheryl Minekime
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
First read this in college more than 30 years ago. Enjoyed revisiting it again after all this time. A good solid offering by one of Sci-Fi's grand masters but for some reason the section on the mission to Jupiter still creeps me out.
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ben Bova isn't the greatest writer, but this story was quick, simple, and I thought had a fairly decent twist to it. My rating is probably inflated a bit because I tend to love old sci-fi. Their ideas and the concepts are interesting to look back on.
Traci Loudin
If you're okay with literary fiction non-endings, go ahead and read this book. If you like to actually have some idea of why you just spent two days reading a story, then this book is not for you. It reaches no conclusion whatsoever.
Jul 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Great up until the end (although some of the chapters seem a bit of a tangent). The final resolution of the big plot was anti-climatic. Too pat and too quick so ultimately unsatisfying.
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Dec 07, 2010
Tharindra Kaluthotaarachchi
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Chris Carr-Pauline
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Jul 15, 2015
John Soria
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Jul 08, 2011
James Lea
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May 10, 2011
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Nov 08, 2011
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May 20, 2011
Bonnie Seidel
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Jul 15, 2016
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Apr 04, 2012
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Jun 06, 2013
Doug Plamping
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Jun 02, 2011
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Dec 26, 2012
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Add missing cover photo 2 3 Aug 07, 2014 03:01AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Add missing cover photo 2 139 Nov 24, 2011 01:39AM  
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Ben Bova was born on November 8, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1953, while attending Temple University, he married Rosa Cucinotta, they had a son and a daughter. He would later divorce Rosa in 1974. In that same year he married Barbara Berson Rose.

Bova is an avid fencer and organized Avco Everett's fencing club. He is an environmentalist, but rejects Luddism.

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