By Ben Bova; Read by Arte Johnson
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Travel / Venus / Asteroids /
Venus is one of Ben Bova’s Grand Tour novels, written after both Mars and Return to Mars. The story begins on the Moon as a man named Van Humphries hustles to a meeting with his dad. There, he finds out that his rich estranged father has offered $10 billion to the first person who can journey to Venus and retrieve the remains of Van’s older brother, who was lost in a landing attempt on the inhospitable planet. Van himself takes up the challenge, building a ship and collecting a crew. They compete in a Great Race of sorts with another ship.
The book is filled with interesting details of space travel, or what space travel might someday be like if mankind starts devoting it’s energy to greater things. Bova portrays an active solar system with colonies on the Moon and miners swarming throughout the asteroid belt. There is also much of interest when the crews reach Venus and enter the planet’s atmosphere. The ships navigate the thick cloud layers with much difficulty, encountering much that they didn’t expect.
So far, the novel I’ve described sounds like it could have been written by Arthur C. Clarke, but the greatest difference between the two writers is that Bova tells a very personal human story against the backdrop of the hectic trip to Venus. Van Humphries discovers things about his brother, about his father and mother, and ultimately about himself. He confronts the fact that things are not what they seemed to be his whole life, and he finds this out while battling for survival in the planet’s extreme environment. The humanity and the science provide a stark contrast that worked for me, and increased my interest in the next volume of The Grand Tour.
Arte Johnson narrates and does a terrific job. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another title that he narrates. I enjoyed his pace and tone, and, of course, his timing is out of this world.
Posted by Scott D. Danielson