Saturn

Last night, I finished reading Saturn by Ben Bova. I’d been picking away at it since November. I’m a just-before-bed reader usually, so I don’t spend hours curled up in a large chair in the living room reading a favorite book.

This particular work by the great science fiction master, Ben Bova, is the story of a group of people in an orbital habitat en route to Saturn. The habitat, capable of supporting a population in excess of ten thousand, is filled with miscreants, malcontents, and personae non gratae — in short, the unconventional nonconformists that the religious conservatives that control Earth can simply not abide. Naturally, the moral purists that run things want to run the people of this habitat, too. Several agents are placed aboard who are tasked with establishing a regime to govern these nonconformists by the strictest of dogmatic guidelines.

Dr. Bova is a talented writer and has won more awards for his writing than I’ve had birthdays. In this book, the plot and characters were intriguing. It seemed, though, that most of the characters were one-dimensional. Despite the fact that this is basically a space ship filled with the unwanted nonconformists, there are no criminals, no mention of anything artistic at all, drab boring uniforms (tunics, tunics, and more tunics), and no freakish personalities. The characters are wooden and two-dimensional generally, almost completely devoid of non-stereotypical personality characteristics. Here’s the evil administrator guy trying for absolute power. Here are the soulless fanatical religious conservatives pulling his strings. Here’s the newly repaired naïve girl with a giddy crush on the administrator guy. Here’s the nanotechnology professor, banned on Earth and any other place sensible. Here’s the droll science administrator. Nobody does anything outside of the stereotypical response their archetypal character would do.

Despite the dryness of the characters and the predictability of the plot, I enjoyed the story. There were a few unexpected twists and the intrigue of the political/religious connivings made me wonder if the power-starved HR director would be able to extract himself from the tentacles of the evil fanatics. I was intrigued by how sheepishly such a massive group of nonconformists marched along, in lockstep to the missives handed down by the administrators.

If you’re a science fiction fan, this one deals more with the political and religious aspects of trying to gain power in an autonomous habitat in space than it does with exploring space, discovering Saturn up-close and personal, or any scientific discovery at all, other than a cursory glimpse at life in the Jovian atmosphere, hints at nanotechnology, and whispers of the technology of the famous-yet-doey-eyed-for-scientists daredevil’s spacesuit. This is, apparently, the seventh of thirteen novels of the “Grand Tour”. It was an enjoyable ride, but it seemed a little formulaic to me — not a classic, not great, but decent.

My grade: C+.

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One Response

  1. […] Having recently finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman and Saturn by Ben Bova, I dug through some boxes for more reading material. […]

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