Best Ben Bova Books
Some of the visionary sci-fi writer Ben Bova's fictional predictions are now today becoming a reality.
“I suggest in the beginning of 'The Story of Light' that you walk into a party blindfolded,” bantered Dr. Ben Bova to radio host Ben Hodel on his KPFK program Hour 25, “see where that gets you.”
Dr. Ben Bova is your classic PhD sci-fi writer-grandpa next door. He has published 124 books to date, both fiction and non-fiction. He's taught fiction and film sci-fi courses at Harvard and he has appeared as a science analyst on CBS Morning News, Good Morning America and the Today show.
If that doesn’t prove the superiority of his science mind, he has also, according to his bio on his website, predicted several scientific developments, including solar-powered satellites, the discovery of organic chemicals in space, virtual reality, human cloning and zero-gravity sex.
Ben Bova is quite the hard-core sci-fi purist. He doesn’t try to write about make believe but, rather in science fact and theory. All actions and events in his novels could totally happen and, if we accept that we live in a universe of infinite possibilities, they already have. Bova does not stop going, and he never stops keeping the world of space travel fresh with the drama of earth. Science bless you, Dr. Ben Bova, and please keep writing. Check out our roundup of the best Ben Bova books ever written.
So there’s this computer programmer Lou Christopher who’s working on a government sponsored gene research program. The scientists on this research thing figure out how to engineer a race of super humans and the government doesn’t want to the world to find out. So what do they do? Exile everyone working on the project.
Lou Christopher evades escape for awhile—until he gets betrayed by his girlfriend. Classic Bova. Christopher gets thrown into space prison where he sulks with his other brilliantly intelligent geneticist friends for awhile. But then they’re like, wait, we’re in space, in a space station, let’s retrofit a spaceship and leave this cold world ruled by unjust bureaucrats forever.
Novel two begins fifty years into the future and the next generation takes it from there. There are definitely echoes of The Foundation series by Asimov, but there’s different stuff too. Bova manages to pull off a story where it’s the scientists who create the possibly society-destroying thing. In retrospect, it’s a story of the government doing their job.
Mars belongs to the Grand Tour novel series, a collection of books by Ben Bova concerned with the exploration and colonization of our solar system. As the title of this novel suggests, Ben Bova’s taking us to the fourth rock from the sun. It is both the second-published and the second chronologically in the series.
Jamie Waterman is a Navajo geologist who joins the landing crew of the first manned- and womaned- mission to Mars. They go to Mt. Olympus and Valles Marineris. Guess what they find down there? Mars disease. Will they make it? It’s like War of the Worlds but reversed and less Orson Welles-able. Funny how something so small as a microbe could bring down something so medium-sized as a human. The international team includes a lady—a hot lady—whose grandfather got killed by Russians. Who else is on the team? A Russian. She gets revenge on him by being a total tease but never sleeping with him. Classic Ben Bova.
Jupiter is really big, like real big. What lives there? Big creatures. Grant Archer is a physicist who, for some reason, is chosen to lead a team studying these large creatures. Seriously, why not a biologist? Their ship enters Jupiter’s stormy atmosphere. Unprepared for crazy pressures and noxious gases, it malfunctions and falls to the surface. Right before certain death, however, one of these large creatures—like city sized—reaches up and catches them. Unable to complete their research, the team returns to Earth. It’s like Solaris but less scary and Soviet. Archer believes the creatures are sentient and, furthermore, benevolent. He must now convince his planet that their study is worthy.
In the labyrinth that is Ben Bova’s hard sci-fi universe, The Asteroid Wars series may or may not also belong to the Grand Tour series. Earth is falling apart in book one, The Precipice. The greenhouse cliff, a prophecy of science, predicted in Empire Builders (1993), stating that the effects of climate change will start a vortex of unbalance in nature. throwing the earth off a ‘cliff,’ has finally occurred. Earthlings now must look to the resource-rich asteroid belt.
One of his oldest and greatest books, The Star Conquerors was published in 1959 in the Winston Science Fiction set, a circulation aimed at young boys, usually featuring some space nerd who knows technology and stuff. One reviewer at Kirkus Reviews called it “A fantasy which pivots about prehistoric and recorded history, is replete with obvious devices of warfare, stock characters, and awkward dialogue. Another case where the conception is in no way equaled by the characters or events.” It could be argued that this story served as an inspiration for Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. While it may not be the most literary of Ben Bova’s library of science fiction masterpieces it certainly does provide rollicking fun adventure of 1950’s sci-fi pistache.
There are some who believe that science fiction is never about the future, it always concerns itself with the present. During the Cold War, nuclear weapons posed mutually assured destruction. But what if the two countries put aside their differences and formed a crazy superpower, the scope of which the world has never seen? Boom, mutually assured survival. In space.
How’re they going to do it? Star Wars, or the Reagan administration project of building lasers to shoot missiles out of the air. Bova predicted that. In the introduction to the second edition, he writes, “this book predicted most of the political events of 1985 concerning SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) and the world’s reaction to it.” Bova. Predicted. That.
Paul Stavenger is a old astronaut and CEO of the Masterson Corporation. His recent marriage to Joanna earned him this spot. There’s this old base on the moon called Moonrise that has become a huge cost to maintain. Stavenger wants to build a sustainable lunar paradise. Masterson Corporation shareholders disagree. It’s a Dallas-like drama, but on the moon.
Remember Grant Archer, astrophysicist and lover of those huge creatures on Jupiter? He’s back for more. All he wants to do is study black holes and pulsars, but all the humans around him spend more time practicing fundamental religion or staunch atheism. Caught in the middle as both a believer and a man committed to science, he gets recruited to go to the Jupiter station where they mine fuel for fusion energy. This might explain why he turns to biology later in his life.
The world is in turmoil. Maybe it hit the greenhouse cliff again. Humans must escape to different celestial bodies and establish—you guessed it—colonies! Oh, also everything is ruled by Reagan-style neoconservative free-trade stuffed shirts. There are also a bunch of nomadic revolutionaries stirring things up.
David Adams lives on Island One, an oasis of peace in a troubled galaxy. In fact, Island One created him. He is perfect, but he is their slave. Can he save the world from destruction?
Remember Jamie Waterman, our favorite Navajo geologist? He’s back too. After returning from his carousing, blue-balling mission to Mars, he has been touring the world, lecturing on his favorite planet, soaking in the good life of famous people, and advocating for a return mission.
And a return mission there is! There’s just one plot twist: the mission is financed by corporations, not the government. The millionaire Daryl Trumball sends his son to see how much money he can make from it. Waterman now must wield science and battle the interests of corporate exploitation. Dr. Bova, your politics are hard to pin down!
This novel, along with its prequel, Orion, marks a divergence in subject matter from the books previously discussed. Set during the Trojan War, a man named Orion comes to consciousness on a Greek ship. He was created by the Golden One, Apollo, God of light. Orion begins to vaguely remember his past life in which he travelled with a woman he loved on a space ship that exploded mid-flight. This woman had been a God, but she chose a mortal life to be with Orion. That’s not exactly the way the myth goes, but the break from space is refreshing.
The final choice on our list is one of the high points of the Grand Tour series. Martin Humphries is a crazy space tycoon. During his 100th birthday party, he announces he will give ten billion dollars to the person who returns to him the bones of Alex, his eldest son. The young man was killed two years ago on a mission to Venus. Van, Martin’s other son, takes up his father’s challenge.
Another man enters the plot—Lars Fuchs—and follows Van to Venus. Upon entry into the atmosphere, they find a host of airborne bacteria eating their ships. Van’s ship gets consumed but Lars saves him. Van finds Lars a harsh but wise ruler and eventually comes to respect him. So many daddy issues! The plot twists even more when Lars reveals to Van that he is actually his father.