by, Ben Bova
(2005), Tor Science Fiction
ISBN – 978-0765343147
Ben Bova - who has been writing science fiction for more than 40 years, including books such as Moonrise and Titan – continues his Grand Tour series about the colonization of the solar system with Mercury. The story begins in the late 21st century as three characters – Astrobiologist Victor Molina, “New Morality” Bishop Elliot Danvers and Billionaire developer Saito Yamagata – come to the scorched surface of the planet closest to the sun. Each has their own myopic agenda, but they are all unaware that they have been lured there by Mance Bracknell so he can avenge the rolls that the three of them played in his destruction a decade earlier.
The story really drags early on and it is difficult to have empathy for any of the characters. They are all uniformly shallow, egotistical and appear oblivious to what any of the others are doing. The second act goes back in time to try and explain where Mance’s wrath originated and the pace of the storytelling picks up a bit, but by then there was little chance to salvage any interest in what would happen to any of the characters. In the finale, Mercury makes a clumsy attempt to make some sort of moral statement of the responsibility of big business and the evil of religious zealots in a future where seemly everyone lives as extremists, but by then the whole story seems unimportant.
Even Bova’s usually engaging science fiction imagery seems to have been sacrificed in this installment. Maybe it was a product of the barren landscape of Mercury, but there just wasn’t anything interesting or unique about the world-building which is a prerequisite of science fiction writing. This book really failed to live up to some of Bova’s other writing and it was a struggle to finish. Mercury is not one of his best works.
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