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Neptune, August 2021
Outer Planets Trilogy #2
by Ben Bova

Tor Books
240 pages
ISBN: 1250296625
EAN: 9781250296627
Kindle: B08GZXPHLV
Hardcover / e-Book
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"A voyage of discovery to the icy oceans of Neptune"

Fresh Fiction Review

Ben Bova

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted January 13, 2022

Romance Contemporary

Ben Bova provides an entertaining SF novel involving a trek to the far reaches of the Solar System. Space travel is routine in this future, though the preserve of the wealthy or science and military organisations. Now explorers visit NEPTUNE. People are settling planets, investigating signs of earlier civilisations on Mars, and coming around to thinking the unthinkable about extra-System aliens.

First it must be acknowledged that classic author Ben Bova passed away during 2020. Neptune, second in the ‘Outer Planets’ series, was published some months later. So it’s possible that the book would have been more developed, or a third instalment in the planned trilogy would have carried the characters and events further than the ending of NEPTUNE. Taking the novel on its own merits, I found a great deal to like. The ice giant Neptune is so distant that only dwarf Pluto is further of the Outer Planets. A Hungarian landowner, Ilona Magyr’s father Miklos, crashlanded on the ice-covered ocean planet and is presumed dead. Ilona has no other family, so she ignores advice and stubbornly finances an expedition to find her father.

Derek Humbolt, a dashing, experienced pilot, is considering retirement, but the private adventure is too much to resist. Ilona and scientist Jan Meitner, a young man who has been piecing together the remains of Martian towns, are his crew. I did think this was highly risky, as any long-distance vehicle would be safer to have two pilots. But probably the autopilot could be instructed to turn around and bring the ship home. I kept having to think about that level of detail, so it was like a film script rather than hard science. The journey is unremarkable, but once the ship arrives at planet Neptune it has to blast a hole in the ice before engaging in a dangerous depth-seeking voyage like the film The Abyss. Humbolt is perhaps modelled on Captain Nemo whose classic SF adventures included battling giant squid.  I like the development of life forms suited to this extreme environment.

As the crew is small, and the long list of other Earth characters are mostly male, older and in positions of respect, I recommend concentrating on Ilona and her heritage. Space travel and science might still be largely male-controlled in this imagined future, but it takes a woman to do this task. Those who have not read any of Ben Bova’s books should start with ones about Mars or Jupiter, but NEPTUNE was a great beginning to my reading year.

Learn more about Neptune


Hugo Award winner Ben Bova continues his grand tour of the human settled solar system with a fan-pleasing look at life in the Outer Planets, among the moons of Neptune...

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

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