Farside by Ben Bova

 

Science FictionFarside by Ben BovaOn the dark side of the moon is the Farside Observatory. Dr. Jacob Uhlrich is the lead scientist there. He is determined to build an optical interferometer and become the first scientist to view the newly discovered planet orbiting one of a pair of stars. No telescope on Earth has been able to do more than observe its presence. A larger telescope unobstructed by the atmosphere is needed to actually see the planet. Farside Observatory is a perfect place to place the telescope under the auspices of Selene, the capitol of the Moon.

Trudy Yost is the young, new astronomer who comes to Farside to be Dr. Uhlrich’s assistant. She arrives at the same time as Carter McClintock. He claims to sort of be Dr. Uhlrich’s administrative assistant. They arrive at the time the Observatory learns the first mirror for the interferometer was broken in transit to the site. Grant Simpson, the head engineer returns to Farside station as Yost and McClintock arrive. Simpson and McClintock need to find a solution to their mirror and schedule problem to maintain Uhlrich’s vision.

On Earth, the IAA is trying to build an interferometer on a space platform. Now Farside and the IAA are in a race to be the first to study Sirius C, or New Earth as it’s been dubbed. The woman in charge of the IAA project, Anita Halleck, has a history with McClintock’s family. Uhlrich’s goal is to earn a Nobel prize and knows his station must be the first to study the planet if he wants to earn it. Hers is for the riches and fame she will earn as the head of the project. It would be nice to be first, but the images and studies of the planet will achieve her goal even if their machine starts later. Or does she need to be first?

In Farside, Ben Bova has written a space opera that fits into his Grand Tour series. Characters from other novels in the series are mentioned (Dan Randolph, Douglas Stavinger) but aren’t relevant in this book. It’s classic good guys versus bad guys. It’s about romance and who gets the girl. It’s about the things that scare us – nanotechnology in this case – and the things that make life worth living.

It’s surprising to learn Farside was published in 2013. The communication technology used sounds like it was written ten to 15 years earlier. They use pocket phones that sound like early cell phones. The computer system is basically functional although wall hangings are large screens that are used as artwork or as tactile centers.

It’s easy to see where the story in Farside is going. There are a few twists, but for the most part, predictable. Plus, really, if someone is being kidnapped, why help the kidnappers? One person is kidnapped near the end and made to go on on the Moon’s surface. But this person checks out the kidnapper’s spacesuit to make sure it is sealed correctly and safe. Why not just refuse to check out the suit? The person is a hostage rather than a probable murder victim so should be safe from harm. But logic would ruin the climax of the novel, wouldn’t it?

Farside is predictable, believable in its scientific possibilities, and fun.

Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations

More books by Ben Bova

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