Leviathans of Jupiter
by Ben Bova
Cover Artist: John Harris
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765317889
Date: 01 February 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Author of more than 140 novels and nonfiction books, Ben Bova continues his Grand Tour series of the solar system with Leviathans of Jupiter. A team of four takes a new submersible on its decent into the ocean of Jupiter to establish contact with the leviathans, giant whale-like creatures that live there. Twenty years before such a team barely escaped with their lives. Now, someone aboard the orbiting station tries to sabotage the new mission.
The hostile environment, the tremendous pressures, and the strange life forms on Jupiter add to the challenges for a manned expedition. The scientists have learned much with unmanned probes, but too little about the leviathans or predators who prey upon them. So far, the leviathans have ignored the unmanned probes. Once submerged, probes lose all contact with the station. Some probes failed to return for unknown reasons. Data capsules launched from them have provided tantalizing data.
Driven by ambition and her past, ruthless Katherine Westfall, a member of the agency responsible for the Jupiter station, seeks the chairmanship of the agency. Grant Archer, head of the Jupiter Station, is considered a likely candidate for the chairmanship. As a result, she wants to cut all funding for manned expeditions to the planet and will stop at nothing to ensure both her objectives.
The manned probe tests human endurance and commitment. The team must choose between survival and communicating with the leviathans.
Throughout his career, Bova has championed hard science fiction. He keeps abreast of science and provides believable settings for his novel. However, he presents a curious admixture of the present and future in other aspects. Clothing as described is rooted firmly in the present. Synthetic foods, medicine, transportation, and nanotechnology are future oriented. Bova tells a good story of humans overcoming their own fears and external obstacles in the name of science and discovery.
The world Bova depicts offers an optimist picture of Earth's future and the colonization of the Solar System even though science vies at times with corporate greed. Peace appears to be the norm however. The Grand Tour series covers ground similar in some ways to Paul McAuley's Gardens of the Sun. However, the later deals with a less optimistic future for Earth.
In some ways, Bova's characters appear caught in a time warp with behavior and attitudes more reminiscent of the fifties than of the present. Westfall is almost a stereotypical villain, an ambitious woman determined to reach the top and control others. The one thing that frightens her is Jupiter and she tells herself to face up to it. The young microbiologist heroine Deidre, Corvus the animal communications expert, and Max the engineer also are stereotypical. His cyborg Dorn presents his best and most complex character closely followed by launch specialist Linda Vishnevskya and the young Leviathan. The Leviathans of Jupiter make a worthy addition to Bova's long list of novels.