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Rescue Mode by Ben Bova and Les Johnson
Cover Artist: Bob Eggleton
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Baen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476736471
Date: 03 June 2014 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: B. Bova's Website / L. Johnson's Website / Show Official Info /

Rescue Mode is a great techno-SIFI novel about a manned mission to Mars in 2035. The authors, Ben Bova and Les Johnson, tell the story and capture your attention without being overly technical. Rescue Mode is lots of fun to read.

Rescue Mode by Ben Bova and Les Johnson is a great book and is fun to read. In 2035, a team of eight astronauts, four men and four women, launch on a two-year mission to Mars and back. It is a joint venture between the US and Russia. The unlikely partners are in response to a recent independent mission by China that found organic chemicals in the Martian soil, including amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

The US President pushed for manned missions, despite opposition from certain politicians, but the president firmly believes that humans can react better than machines in unpredictable situations and that one manned mission will make more discoveries than a dozen robot probes. The US had invited China to participate, but the Chinese government elected to continue with its own plans for Mars exploration. The arguing politicians produce an on-again, off-again status for the future manned missions to Mars that is part of the fun as the plot unfolds.

About two-thirds of the way to Mars, the space ship collides with a rock the size of a basketball. Although small, at space velocities, the rock inflicts major damages and forces the shuttle plans to change.

Communication between the shuttle and mission control on Earth proposes numerous solutions to repair the damage, which add to the science aspects in science fiction. The characters grow too, and I found that the characters made decisions and did things in response to the casualty that I never would have predicted. I really liked how the authors end the story, but I will leave that as a surprise.

It is 2035, and the technological advances make the story fun too. Part of the Mars mission is a virtual reality program, where subscribers to the VR system can experience the launch from the point of view of Steven Treadway, a science reporter who follows the mission from beginning to end. Other cool things are Earth-orbiting hotels where the rich and famous can enjoy zero gravity for a price, and hybrid airplanes with aviation-fueled engines for takeoff and landing and an all-electric mode while in flight.

In addition to the actual Mars mission, part of the story is the human interaction where the eight people need to live together in close quarters. The individuals are heavily screened, but two years is a long time and the conditions in the spacecraft are very cramped. Of course, the astronauts and the ground team need to address sex on the spacecraft, and they do. The astronauts learn to get along. Each astronaut has personal issues such as bad marriages and illnesses that all add to the living conditions.

Rescue Mode is more or less a sequel to another novel by Ben Bova and Les Johnson named, Mars, Inc.. Mars, Inc. sets up and funds the mission. Rescue Mode never mentions that first novel, and no knowledge of the first is required to read Rescue Mode. I loved them both, and I am mentioning the first novel to add to the fun of reading Rescue Mode. I hope there is another novel to continue the story.

I cannot recommend Rescue Mode enough. Read it, you will be happy that you did.

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