Monday, August 26, 2013

New Earth by Ben Bova

 Here's another author whose works I've been reading for many years whom I've never reviewed on this blog. This particular novel is set in a series called The Grand Tour, which so far contains Mercury, Mars Life, and Jupiter: A Novel. I suppose I'm going to have to go out and hunt the others down and read...them. I have a ton of old Ben Bova books in the library, maybe it's time to add some Nook versions of his newer novels.

The future has arrived, and the results of global warming are in...much of the world is flooded by the melting of the glaciers and polar ice caps, destruction and refugees are the order of the day. Around the time that the first effects were being felt, a manned expedition (crew of 12) was sent to Sirius C, where an Earth-like planet was discovered. The expedition was supposed to be followed by a series of backup missions at short intervals, to augment the crew and explore the new world. However, the crisis on Earth and political considerations have kept new missions from being mounted, and 86 years have passed. The starship is about to land on New Earth.

The leader of the expedition is Jordan Kell, a former diplomat who has, like most of the others on board, been chosen not only because of his qualifications, but because no one on Earth will miss him; his only brother, Brandon, is also on board as a planetary biologist and his wife died of a bio-engineered plague on his last assignment in Kashmir. The nano-virus that caused her death remains within Kell, too, dormant in his guts, but fortunately for Earth, far enough away now that if it revives, it will not hurt anyone but his companions.

When the expedition begins to explore the planet, they're in for a series of surprises, as it turns out to be inhabited by an "alien" race who turn out to be identical in terms of DNA to the human race, and they have been waiting for Earth humans to contact them for a specific purpose - which our intrepid explorers must determine to be either benign or insidious.

The story of how they work their way through the layers of mystery surrounding New Earth is fairly entertaining, and a quick read in the old Bova style. Some of the grumbling and political maneuvers in the novel may reflect Bova's attitude about the current administration's curtailing our outer space exploration and mothballing the shuttle fleet - if I recall correctly, he used to work in aerospace. Whether you think the Earth will die by fire or by flood, you'll hopefully not be distracted by global warming alarmism here, as it serves mostly as a plot device to give the politicians an excuse to defund space missions. Perhaps some of the other Grand Tour books get into it more deeply. I'll keep you posted.

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