by Ben Bova
Cover Artist: John Harris
Review by Jon Guenther
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323873
Date: 12 February 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
I've been a fan of Dr. Bova's work ever since I read the Asteroid Wars novels many years ago. Ben's also a personal acquaintance (I've chatted with him on several occasions at the annual Bubonicon Conference in Albuquerque) so it's a special treat getting to review Farside ahead of its release.
Dr. Bova's in top form here with the story of the Farside Observatory on the non-Earth facing side of the Moon. The basic story revolves around a number of key personnel at Farside who are in a race to prove that a new planet detected by Earth telescopes may contain an atmosphere practically mirroring that of Earth. The discovery of this new planet, however, does not preoccupy the story.
This is part thriller and part mystery. Somebody is out to sabotage the efforts of the Farside scientists for reasons unknown, and they appear willing to go to any lengths to tie up those ends--including assassination. Aside from many of the cool scientific premises that run through the novel (classic Bova), there is also a bit of political intrigue and a body of rich characterization.
Those familiar with Dr. Bova's other works will find some recurring characters and locales here, such as the Selene Moon colony, Halleck and Stavenger (to name a few), but what carried me away in this novel was the pace. I found the story both engrossing and entertaining, even with chapters that provided mini-bios on the main characters. This book really had a lot going for it in the science end of the spectrum: nanomachines, massive polished mirrors, hoppers and magnetic catapults, and a wide variance in bio-medical applications.
I do have a couple of small gripes with the novel. First, the denouement turned out to be somewhat predictable and that was frustrating in the payoff. The second problem I have is the reveal came a bit too soon. That made about the latter fifth of the story about the pursuit of the antagonists and so the mystery portion kind of fell apart a bit prematurely. This really transformed the book into more of an action-thriller. On that note, I really do wish Dr. Bova would've chosen his sub-genre a little more carefully and stuck with it until the end.
Still, Farside was a highly enjoyable and well-written novel on the merits of mechanics, pace, storytelling and characterization. A strong showing for Ben Bova in this book and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we don't learn more about these characters and the Farside Observatory in later books. If you enjoy Bova or Allen Steele, you will definitely enjoy Farside.