A Place

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mars, Ben Bova's Red Planet Adventure

Well, what can I say about a long story that made the train rides go quickly? Overall, the book was a good read though not great. The story is mostly a linear what-if scenario written during the early-nineties (1992/3) of what the future exploration to Mars story would mostly likely become. Knowing when it was written helps to focus the readers mindset before the current events of today that has shaped the course of history and some of the plausibility of the setup presented by Bova. It is somewhat daunting to keep the whole basis of an international funded mission to the Red Planet sending about 20+ astronauts with tons of equipment to explore a planet for a few months. Considering the supreme challenge NASA currently has sending shuttles into orbit, I doubt the events depicted would happen anytime soon, let alone a human-led Marsbound expedition backed by Planet Earth. Then again, it is an adventure story.

Most of the technical aspects and descriptions of the planet match up with existing technologies, knowledge, and terminology; so there are no real surprises or cutting edge tech to imagine. The flashbacks throughout the novel briefs the reader with insight to certain character histories or events that shape the mindset of the characters. The novel moves slowly as a result, with some action scenes mixed in with mostly character interactions and a large amount of diplomacy. Also, there are a plethora of characters in Mars to keep track of making the read even slower.

I liked James Waterman's character, an American-Navaho happy-go-lucky geologist that is a staunch explorer at heart with a mindset to finding intelligent life on Mars. He is the main character in the novel afterall. Vosnesensky, the leader of the ground team, was a good character too, a leader with a great attitude and looking out for his compatriots no matter the cost but will follow things to the book for the most part. Best of all, both Waterman and Vosnesensky are pretty much together throughout the novel making for some interesting chit-chat along the way. The cover of the novel (the image above) is a scene from the story where James and Vosnesensky sidetrack on Mars's largest canyon where James later is lowered through a winch down the chasm believes there are caves etched into the canyon walls. Is it a real or shadow tricks? We never find out as a subsequent mission is sent to the area, lead by Waterman, but the team is overrun with several complications providing some interesting reading to the end. Life is ultimately found on Mars, though it is only microscopic for those wondering about that.

At best, it was a good story though not great. It moved well in some parts and somewhat slow in others but was enough to keep my interest plodding along, just as Jaime Waterman did on Mars nearly everytime he was out on an expedition.

3.5/5 *

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Day of the Dark Jackal

Like all aps, Blogger takes forever waiting to upload whatever a user desires and edit stuff around. Sheesh. That must be success, similar to World of Warcraft had with its servers running to the max due to popular demand. I like the flexability provided by blogger making web blurbs essentially a cakewalk compared to those halcyon days of the early internets. Of course, there is the trade off between having someone else's brand stamped on your work and having the free wherewithall to post with little to no effort in a streamlined process. With that, the blogger bug got a hold of me as well.

Diamonds are forever, I guess.