cover image Empire Builders

Empire Builders

Ben Bova. Tor Books, $21.95 (383pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85104-0

Ten years after breaking the Russian Federation's monopoly on space travel, 21st-century swashbuckler Dan Randolph returns in this third-rate sequel to Privateers . Now an industrialist, Randolph is suddenly arrested and his billion-dollar lunar mining corporation confiscated by the corrupt and bureaucratic Global Economic Council--which happens to be headed by his archnemesis, Vasily Malik. Randolph escapes, and learns that his misfortune is linked to an impending global environmental disaster which the G.E.C. is using as an excuse to seize control of the world's economy--starting with his company. He also learns that organized crime has infiltrated the G.E.C. and is looking forward to a handsome profit from the seizure. With enemies chasing him between Earth and the moon, Randolph works to stop these schemes and save the earth without compromising its people's freedom. In a hackneyed, predictable plot and bad B-movie dialogue, Bova combines familiar environmental doomsaying with dewy-eyed capitalist optimism. Presumably a lovable rake, the totally unsympathetic Randolph acts more like an insensitive lecher; although Bova makes many careful gestures toward gender egalitarianism in his casting, the major female characters are inevitably sexually harassed, manipulated and victimized. Bova can do better than this childishly macho, feeble and unoriginal attempt at space adventure. (Sept.)