Six-time Hugo Award winner Bova likes to tell big stories in a small way. This approach both helps and hurts in this collection of stories, excerpts and outtakes from his "Grand Tour" novels (Saturn, etc.), which explore the colonization of the solar system. Despite his vast subject, Bova focuses tightly on the heroes and villains whose striving makes up his future history. While some characters are standards of the SF genre (megalomaniac capitalist, lone-wolf entrepreneur, love object caught between them), Bova imbues each with Homeric virtues and flaws. Plus, he can slip convention to present a tale of a crippled circus performer regaining his balance from a visit to the lower-gravity moon ("The Man Who Hated Gravity"), or an account of unrequited love of a stunt double about to free-fall through Venus's skies ("High Jump").
Like a folksy astrophysicist, Bova delights in talking about outer space, from the surface of Venus (hot enough to melt aluminum!) through the asteroid belt (four times farther from the sun than Earth!) to the depths of Jupiter (a beach ball squashed down by an invisible child!). His excitement at being there matches his gusto for the dirty deeds done in the name of love, honor and duty. Less happily, the volume reveals his occasional repetitive prose, hidden across the novels. Similarly, the differing backstories of the novels sit uneasily next to each other. Still, his stories offer glimpses of the human side of space, the heroic grins and tragic grimaces alike.
©2005 Ben Bova (P)2005 Phoenix