cover image Challenges


Ben Bova. Tor Books, $21.95 (348pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85550-5

This bland collection gathers recent short stories and nonfiction essays by the Hugo Award-winning author of Mars , with each piece prefaced by the author's comments about his inspirations and writing methods. The stories display the typical elements of Bova's hard-SF orientation: robotic prosthetic limbs in the light-hearted tale, ``The Man Who Hated Gravity''; sentient computers in the cyberpunkish ``World War 4.5''; a mysterious alien artifact in ``Sepulcher''; the problems of interstellar travel in ``To Touch a Star.'' The author handles his subjects with clear prose and well-practiced skill, but none of these works breaks new ground. At best, he offers mildly intriguing perspectives on topics better handled elsewhere; at worst, he is prosaic and predictable. The nonfiction, dealing with the nature and technique of SF-writing, is adequate but forgettable. Bova repeats himself from essay to essay; his arguments about the merits of SF as literature have been made before. The one truly engaging essay is ``Science, Fiction and Faith,'' which contends that SF may be the mythology of the modern age. As a whole, this volume does not represent Bova's strongest work. (May)