Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tales of the Grand Tour

Ben Bova's novels about colonisation of the Solar System have been grouped together as the Grand Tour series. This selection of short stories and excerpts from those novels serves as an appetiser, or amuse bouche if you really wanted to set your Hat of Extreme Pretentiousness at a jaunty angle, for those novels.

The tales are on the whole fairly standard, astronauts-are-brave, space-is-tough stuff. Classic, hard sf where the science is well-researched and as convincing as possible. They are told in a straight, no-nonsense style that never gets in the way of the story.

A couple of the stories have a more personal, human focus: "The Man Who Hated Gravity" being the most succesful for me, about a trapeze acrobat who loses his nerve, but gains a bionic leg. It's these stories I liked the most, the ones that dealt with ordinary people on Earth and how their lives are affected by the hardcore science going on above them. Astronauts and scientists doing brave things and being clever is just not interesting; for heroes, being heroic is their job. They're spacemen after all: you expect them to be able to wrestle a disintegrating spaceship through the sulphuric acid of Venus' atmosphere.

Has the book done its job, and whetted my appetite for a full plate of steaming Bova? I'd say so. I'll keep an eye out for any of the other Grand Tour books.

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