Volume 16, Number 2, Spring, 1998


By Ben Bova

Avon, 1996 560 pgs. $6.99
Reviewed by Lynn Maners

Planned as part of a series to include the sequel Moonwar, this novel establishes the privatized development of space and especially the colonization of the Moon within what is essentially the story of a dysfunctional mother/son relationship. Many deaths occur in this book because maternal affection trumps obvious insanity.

Early on we get a sense of the problems of the family corporation when Paul Stavenger is effectively murdered on Luna by nanomites which cause him to open his face plate before the nanos can eat through his suit. These murderous nanos were the result of sabotage by his literally insane, and insanely clever, stepson Greg. (Greg’s character reminds me of the Unabomber, who is alleged to be spending all his time in jail writing a manifesto disputing his insanity).

Unable and unwilling to commit her son to institutional treatment, his mother Joanna sows the seeds for future conflict by allowing him to continue working while in therapy. Joanna Stavenger then has a son by her deceased husband. We see the denoument rolling towards us like a freight train, setting up a confrontation, by proxy in the boardroom and then physically on the moon, with a clever lunatic whose main desire is to kill his half-brother Doug, gain control of the corporation and shut down Moonbase, even if it means killing everyone in the base by asphyxiation.

Extremely well written, as we would expect from Ben Bova, this novel, though not overtly libertarian, does, nonetheless, make an interesting case for the private development of the limitless resources available to humanity once we get out of the big gravity well. I’m looking forward to reading Moonwar soon.

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