cover image Neptune


Ben Bova. Tor, $28.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-29662-7

Hugo Award–winner Bova (1932–2020) isn’t at his best in the second novel of his Outer Planets trilogy (after 2020’s Uranus); the inventiveness that marked the author’s strongest books is absent in a volume that ends up feeling like a lengthy tease. Ilona Magyr is determined to travel to Neptune on a deeply personal mission: her father, Baron Miklos Magyr, embarked on an expedition to explore that planet’s oceans, and after three years of silence, he’s been presumed dead by everyone but Ilona. She finances a trip to search for him, accompanied only by two men who both have a romantic interest in her, scientist Jan Meitner and capt. Derek Humbolt, “known throughout the worlds as the most fearless, most competent, boldest explorer of them all.” Their journey to the bottom of Neptune’s oceans proves unexpectedly hazardous as they encounter new life-forms that consider them potentially edible. What they discover about Ilona’s father sets the stage for an even greater challenge, but Bova doesn’t make humanity’s response to that challenge plausible, and his imagined Neptunian life isn’t particularly creative. The same plotline has been done better by authors like Jack McDevitt. [em](Aug.) [/em]