The Silent War by Ben Bova
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0312848781 PubDate: 05/01/04
Review by Ernest Lilley
384 pgs. List price $ 24.95
Buy this book and support SFRevu at
Amazon US / Amazon UK
Bova closes a segment of his Grand Tour of the solar system with The Silent War, finishing up the story he began in The Precipice, and continued in The Rock Rats. The trilogy has seen Earth go through climactic catastrophe, though still sustaining a sizeable population, and mankind move out to the moon and the asteroids thanks to industry and the invention of the fusion drive.
Now it will see space war, fought between two giant corporations for the best of all possible reasons, greed, lust and power.
Pancho Lane inherited control of Astro corporation, and stands opposed to Martin Humphries, the amoral head of Humphries Space Systems. They both k now that asteroid mining is about to be revolutionized and that there will only be room for one supplier of ores from space, and their both determined that it not be the other. Along the way, Humphries has an old score to settle with Lars Fuchs, once a scientist, then an asteroid prospector, and now a pirate, all because Humphries wanted the one thing that Lars valued above all elseÖhis wife Amanda. What Humphries wants he gets, and with vast wealth and no scruples, heís a hard man to say no to. Amandaís price was Larsí life, and so far itís a bargain thatís been kept, despite the pricks Larís has caused Humphries by hijacking ore freighters on their way to and from the belt.
Into this unstable triangle of needs comes the influence of Yamagata Corporation, out to pit the players against each other and to be ready to pick up the pieces after they collide. Throughout it all they forget what drove the creation of the space industries, the hope that the rich materials and abundant power in space could be used to help the billions trapped on Earth, ravaged by greenhouse warming and economic collapse.
Dr. Bova wraps it all up in a fast paced tale of intrigue and violence on the high frontier that is usually driven by revenge, ends too often in death, and to seldom in redemption...but what the solar system needs isnít war, itís salvation.
The science of space war worried me a bit. Iíve always wondered how a ship can sneak up on somebody when thereís nothing around but nothing? Actually, I asked the author, who suggested that there may be a radar blind spot directly abaft of a ship under thrust, and certainly using radar
absorptive materials would render a ship invisible, but his focus is on the story and we never get around to the sort of tech exposition that geeks like me like, and literary types loathe. Perhaps thatís a good thing. As to offensive weapons, mining lasers and tossing tiny rocks in the path of a fast moving spaceship certainly would have the desired effect, but I was surprised that nobody used missiles or hunter-killer robots, as the future of warfare lies not in the hands of humans but in machine v machine conflicts.
Though The Silent War pretty clearly wraps up the struggle between Astro and Humphries, it by no means ends Dr. Bovaís Grand Tour of the solar system. Heís already spun off subplots and sidelines, some of which beg to be followed up on. In fact, he sets us up for it, when Pancho suggests that she might like to see what her sister is up to with the Saturn expedition.
Ultimately, the bookís focus on people over setting robs it of a certain amount of power.
If you havenít read the first two books in this series, you wonít want to start here. I liked the first book quite well, and you may find yourself hooked after reading it. You could read this as a standalone, and it would still be a fun ride through the asteroid belt, but so many grudges and storylines come to a head that youíd really miss a lot. If you have read the books leading up to this, youíll need little urging to see how things turn out for characters youíve gotten attached to already.