Reviewed by: Susan Raizer
Title: Power Challenges
Author: Ben Bova
NSS Amazon link for this book
Publisher: Caezik SF & Fantasy Arc Manor
Date: June 2021
Retail price: $28.50/$6.99
Power Challenges is the fourth book In the Power series novels. Although the reviewer did not read the three prior books, she found that the book stands alone as a narrative of how space policy and actions in the space arena is viewed by politicians, the media, and the general public.
The author, Ben Bova, was a prolific writer who wrote more than 125 science fiction and science fact books over his illustrious career. Sadly, he passed away on November 29, 2020, from COVID-19 complications. Mr. Bova was a six-time Hugo Award winner and editor of several science fiction magazines. He was also a past president of our National Space Society and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization. He has received other awards and served on various science and science fiction committees within the aerospace, science, and science fiction communities.
The book is a fast-reading, dual faceted book and easily plausible. The first half of the book is centered around Jake Ross, the U.S. President’s science advisor and his pet project to get humans back to the Moon. He has created a fictional Artemis program to send human astronauts back to the Moon for long term exploration as a stepping-stone to later missions to Mars. The difference between this fictional Artemis program vs the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s is that the new program will be funded entirely by private investors. Set against the enthusiasm of Jake Ross are the openly hostile members of congress as well as the NASA management who feel they are being left out of the project, coupled with the more immediate needs of humans all over the world as they struggle against climate change, economic instabilities, and growing food insecurities. The protagonist aggressively lobbies all concerned and is successful despite the death of the President. He encourages the former Vice President and new President to whole-heartedly support the project. It becomes a reality and scientists soon begin to live and work on the lunar base. These scientists discover the potential existence of another intelligent life force in the universe. The scientists send a message, but it will take fifty years to hear back. Not all humanity is ready for interstellar contact, which segues into the second part of the book.
The second focus of the book is more of a classic science fiction battle in space which is unrelated to the first theme. It is like having two stories that are presented through the eyes of Jake Ross which in a way mirrors the current politics of space. Once the lunar base is operational, Jake Ross is introduced to a new concept: that of a network of geo-synchronous satellites which are controlled by the spacefaring countries through a system of military space stations. The purpose of the satellites is to provide an early warning system if any of the nations becomes hostile. While there is a great deal of resistance, the President asks his arch-rival in Congress to be his Vice President and to spearhead the program. Jake Ross succeeds in getting all the countries to agree to the network and gets the satellites and space stations built. Then, without warning, one of the stations is attacked and several of the astronauts killed. The commander of the station that was attacked, J. W. Hazard, is an experience military man and soon realizes that some of the other stations have gone rogue. Through his leadership he is able to thwart the coup, which was led by the Vice President, whose group wants to start a nuclear conflagration by destroying all the other stations and pitting the network’s membership against each other. The plot is thwarted, and an uneasy peace prevails.
I recommend this book to National Space Society members as an easy to read story by one of our illustrious members, is very well written and contains subject matter that is very timely. First, there is a real Artemis program that will bring humans back to the Moon for exploration and training for long duration missions to Mars. Secondly, with the recent escalations in unease caused by the Russian destruction of one of their satellites whose debris placed the International Space Station in danger of being hit by the debris, the issue of the militarization of space has become a current events topic. While a global network of military satellites poised to attack other member nations is not a reality at this time, tensions are rising on Earth in numerous areas which could translate to military actions in space. Thirdly, throughout his career, Ben Bova has time and again presaged or predicted actual events and breakthroughs in science through his science fiction stories.
© 2022 Susan Raizer
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