Review of The Precipice by Ben Bova

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Precipice by Ben BovaThe Precipice
By Ben Bova; Read by Scott Brick, Amanda Karr, and Cast
10 CD’s – 12 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1593974906
Themes: / Science Fiction / Asteroids / Environment / Nanotechnology / Space Travel / Moon / Corporations /

The Precipice is first book in Ben Bova’s Asteroid War series, which itself is part of the larger group of novels called The Grand Tour. All of the Grand Tour novels appear on audio, the earliest ones abridged, and the later ones unabridged. Of all the Bova novels I’ve heard on audio (Mars, Return to Mars, and Venus), this is the best, possibly because it’s the first unabridged one I’ve heard, more likely because the novel was fine, traditional science fiction peopled with complex characters. The plot was interesting, and the details more so. I really enjoyed this book.

The driving force of the novel is the adversarial relationship between Dan Randolph and Martin Humphries, who are both extremely successful corporate CEO’s. The world is in environmental disarray because the “Greenhouse Cliff” has been reached – the point at which environmental change becomes rapid and unstoppable. The reaction to this by Randolph is to find a way to help. Humphries’ reaction is to find profit opportunities. They both look toward the asteroid belt, whose mineral wealth Randolph sees as mankind’s savior, and Humphries sees as a giant dollar sign. They both struggle for the upper hand as they prepare mankind’s first trip to the asteroid belt.

The novel has another character well worth mentioning. Her name is Pancho Lane, and the first time we meet her in the novel, she is on a space station conning five fellow workers out of a month’s salary. She’s a smart-mouthed, independent, strong female astronaut that plays a huge role in the plot, and is one of those characters that you miss when a novel is done.

The cover of the audiobook lists the readers as “Scott Brick, Amanda Karr, and cast”. Brick and Karr are very strong readers, and have the largest parts in the book. Amanda Karr read the portions of the novel from Pancho Lane’s point of view, and gave the character just the right amount of attitude.

The other readers also performed well. I recall in an earlier post on this site, I mentioned that I wasn’t too fond of multiple-reader audiobooks, and that I preferred single narrators. I did mention Ender’s Game as an exception, which was produced by Stefan Rudnicki, as this one was. Since then, I’ve heard enough of these multiple-reader audiobooks (all produced by Rudnicki) to realize that if an audiobook is edited properly and you have capable performers all around, then the multiple-narrator technique employed here is preferable to single-narrator audiobooks for the simple fact that I immediately know whose POV the story is coming from at any time, which makes listening a more immersive experience. The voices drew me in faster as I picked up the book after putting it down between listens, as if the characters themselves were doing the reading.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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