by Ben Bova
Cover Artist: Robert Llewellyn and Andy Sotiriou
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765317865
Date: 03 January 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Power Play by Ben Bova is a play on words. Power refers to the bid for election to the US Senate of a wealthy Businessman named Franklin Tomlinson. The lead character is Jake Ross whom Tomlinson hires as a science advisor for his campaign. Jake is a young astronomy professor at the local state university (the plot never reveals what state they are in, but we know it is in the upper Midwest) and Jake quickly recommends a new type of power generation that the university is researching called MHD---that's the second type of Power.
Jake is a young man, recently widowed, who has been withdrawn since his wife's death. Jake's mentor at the university recommends he take the science advisor position to help come out of his shell a bit. Jakes accepts the job, and moves back into the world very quickly. He quickly meets Amy, the candidate's lead staffer and assumed lover. Amy uses sex to persuade people and does so to Jake when needed.
Aside from Jake's love interests, Power Play explains the MHD Power Generation system. MHD stands for “magnetohydrodynamics.” To make power, a plasma is injected through a chamber at a supersonic speed where the plasma gives up electrons as it passes though a magnetic field. The plasma is derived from coal, which will also help revitalize the states mining industry, further helping the campaign.
Jake quickly finds himself immersed in a power struggle about MHD that adds to the power struggle of the campaign. The head of the MHD project at the university is reluctant to use Tomlinson's campaign and wealth to advance his project, which is odd for an academician. Later, the project head and his wife are found dead and their deaths are ruled as a murder/suicide. The wife's doctor dies soon after so he could not reveal anything about the wife's medical conditions with supposedly prompted the suicide. Jake smells foul play and ends up in a search to find the cause of death and quickly finds himself threatened by organized crime. The plot unfolds and solves all the various plotlines and the ending leaves at a great place for a sequel and I look forward to reading it.
From his web site: "Ben Bova is a noted author and has written more than 100 futuristic novels and nonfiction books. Ben Bova has been involved in science and high technology since the very beginnings of the space age." The MHD power source qualifies as the future technology, but the mystery is also first rate. I loved Power Play and can't wait to read more novels by Ben Bova.