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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mercury by Ben Bova

Mercury by Ben Bova. New York: Tor, 2005. ISBN: 0-765-30412-0

Ben Bova is one of those famous names in Science Fiction, but not one that ever managed to make it into my personal SciFi hall of fame. I'm sure I've read any number of his novels over the years, but don't ask me to name any of them. Even reading over the list on his web site, none stands out with an “Oh yes, how well I remember that story.”

I recently started to read Mercury, which as I learned just now, doing my usual research via the eponymous Google, is one of a fairly extensive set of novels, making up a “Grand Tour” of the solar system. Unfortunately, by the time I reached page 50, I had made a Nancy Pearl decision that I wasn't going to bother to finish it.

Why? Because the plot is just too far-fetched, too trite, just plain over the top. I'm sorry, but the first human expedition to the surface of Mercury isn't going to involve a formerly discredited engineer who has changed his name, altered his appearance, and now waits to exact revenge on guess who? His former best friend who is now married to his former wife, and who is coming to investigate the possibility of biological life on Mercury.

And not only that, a clergyman along as the expedition chaplain just happens to be another person involved in the revenge-driven scientist's downfall. We've barely attempted (albeit miserably failed) to swallow these unlikely events when we learn that the wife is now en route to Mercury herself. I'm sorry, I just can't stomach this. Give me the science; give me the exploration; give me believable characters and motivations, but don't give me a pot-boiler plot worthy of a bodice-ripper or a drug store paperback rack thriller.

I can't take it. Sorry Ben. Not recommended.


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