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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Sam Gunn Omnibus by Ben Bova

The Sam Gunn Omnibus by Ben Bova. New York: Tor, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-765-31617-2

So who is Sam Gunn, anyway, and why should we care about him? He's a character in what one hopes might be the near future of solar system exploration. He's a larger than life, entrepreneurial, authority-flaunting, irrepressible, astronautic adventurer. He's a short, feisty, red-haired, freckle-faced, snub-nosed, womanizing rapscallion. He's made and lost more fortunes than he can shake a stick at. Everyone who's ever met him either loves him or hates him.

He was one of the original space station astronauts who goes on to be involved in the first moon colony, the first asteroid mining expedition, the first orbiting hotel, and other firsts too many to mention, including the first human to supposedly travel through a black hole and return to tell about it.

Apparently SciFi grand master Ben Bova has been writing tales about this lovable scamp for quite a while. These stories have been written (or at least published) as early as 1983, and as recently as 1995, but only now have they all been gathered together, together with some new ones, all in one place.

“Featuring every story every written about Sam Gunn, and then some,” according to the blurb on the title page. As is often the case, Bova spins a new tale as a way to tie all of these stories together. A young orphan grows up on the moon, and eventually comes to realize that Sam may be her father. She grows up and eventually becomes a reporter, out to produce a definitive documentary on the life of Sam Gunn. This gives her (and Bova) the excuse for contacting different folks who knew Sam, and getting them to tell her their stories.

Unlike many of these contrived settings, this one actually works. We learn about Sam along with his ostensible daughter, and while some of the stories are pretty preposterous, so is Sam, apparently. This is classic near-future science fiction at its best. Definitely recommended.

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