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    Review of THE ROCK RATS by Ben Bova (see his website)


    TOR, April 2002

    Earth is self-destructing into global warming, new morality, desertification, and starvation. The moon is independent but civilized. Now, the real frontier is the asteroid belt--an area where a man can dream about the big find that will make him rich--and where most of the money is collected by the merchants, the companies that transport ore back to Seline and Earth, and by the barmen and entertainers. When Amanda Cunningham marries Lars Fuchs, Martin Humphries conceives of a clever plan--give the couple a spaceship as a wedding present and send Lars out on a wild goose chase. While he's gone, Humphries is certain that he can persuade Amanda to join him in his bed--and as his wife. When Amanda decides to join Lars on the ship, Humphries has to scheme more deeply, setting off piracy and violence in the anarchic asteroid belt. With his resources, this isn't difficult for Humphries--and he knows that Lars will react just fine.

    THE ROCK RATS continues author Ben Bova's (see other reviews of novels by this author) near future saga with a number of recurring characters. Bova's science--from asteroid hunting to nanotechnology to global warming to using the gravity of an asteroid to conserve fuel--seems sound and provides an intriguing backdrop to the story. Similarly, his new morality movement on Earth as well as occasional references to terrorism are interesting extrapolations from today into the near future.

    Where Bova falls short is in his characters. Amanda spends much of THE ROCK RATS whining about wanting to return to Earth--apparently unconcerned that she and Lars provide the only competitive supply source for the thousands of explorers and miners who are their friends--and the hope of humanity's survival. Lars lets hatred and jealosy motivate his behavior and drive him into simply unforgiveable acts. Pancho Lane, a major character in THE PRECIPICE (see our review) is a cameo character without a lot of depth. Even Humphries' beautiful and deadly assistant Diane Verwoerd becomes terminally stupid toward the end of the novel. Frankly, although Humphries is the badguy, he's the only sympathetic character in the novel.

    Two Stars

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