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    Review of MERCURY by Ben Bova

    TOR, May 2005

    Mance Bracknell had a dream--a sky hook, an elevator reaching from Earth's surface to geosynchronous orbit--and beyond. Such an elevator could transform the economics of space. Rather than costing hundreds of dollars per pound carried into orbit, material could be lifted for pennies. With bucky-ball materials, such a sky elevator could finally be built--and after years of work, Mance was project director for first nearly complete system, engaged to a beautiful woman, and at the verge of achieving everything. Then the sky elevator fell, millions were killed in the fall, and Mance was ruined. A decade later, like the Count of Monte Cristo, Mance is back--seeking revenge for those who caused his destruction--and seeking the return of the woman he loved.

    After years in a monastery, Saito Yamagata too has a dream--giving mankind the stars. By planting solar collectors near the sun, Yamagata believes he can dramatically increase the efficiency of solar power collection. That will certainly help with Earth's never-ending demands for power, but it will also provide the energy needed to send ships out of the solar system, winging for Alpha Centari--and beyond.

    Back on Earth, the conservative religious movements that took over after global warning destroyed much of the planet's infrastructure fear recovery and wealth. Stopping the sky tower, the solar collectors, any trip to the stars is a key part of their agenda.

    Author Ben Bova (see more reviews of novels by Bova) creates a powerful retelling of the classic Monte Cristo revenge story. It's easy to sympathize with Mance as he attempts the destruction of the truly evil people who ruined his life, who killed millions, and who denied humanity its best reach for space. Yet Bova reminds us that destruction, whatever the cause, carries a heavy price.

    I've been disappointed by some of Bova's recent works, but he pulls everything together in MERCURY. Interesting characters, complex motivation, fascinating science, and real social themes add up to a compelling story. Highly Recommended.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 6/05/05

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