Ben Bova





Very standard b-grade thriller fare, cf. Tom Clancy.


Maybe it has a big turnaround, but I couldn’t push myself much past the first hundred pages.


Cardboard characters that are described as massively intelligent and resourceful, yet are lucky to exhibit the maturity and insight of adolescents. The arch-villain is supposed to be smart enough to have fooled basically everyone on earth to run a virtual world government, yet he’s utterly transparent. Oh, and he casually hits on a sexy reporter, forcing her to sleep with him to get access to a story she wants – as if he’s not actually handing her a much bigger story/blackmail threat. It’s gratuitously playing to the seedy crowd.


The premise is that only our hero and his supporters on the moonbase understand that the new ‘nanotechnology’ – viruslike micro-organisms that can be used to build rocketships and furniture and cure diseases – is good, but the whole world has been fooled by the villain into thinking they’re bad. It only works for that high-school Adrian Mole stage where you do still think that no-one understands except you.


Oh, and of course this nanotechnology gibberish means that Bova can suddenly pull out any magic trick – ‘hey, they can make us invisible’ – as if it’s part of a coherent plot. As with fantasies where wizards can suddenly pull out spells we’ve never heard of at no cost, ultimately there is no suspense. And the only thing going for this book (no character, no humour, no insight, no wit – maybe he does good action that I never got to) is suspense (even down to titling each chapter as a countdown). The SF aspect just gives Bova a chance at a particular market – perhaps wise financially, but he abuses the genre to give more licence to sloppy plotting.


January 2003