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    Review of POWERSAT by Ben Bova


    TOR, January, 2005

    Arab oil and Arab terrorists still threaten America, but industrialist Dan Randolph has a plan--he's built a satellite in geostationary orbit high above earth. Its miles of solar panels gather sunlight 24 hours a day. The plan is to beam that power back to earth in the form of microwaves, converting it to electricity in a huge antenna array in the desert. But the plan depends on a low-cost reusable spaceship Randolph's company has developed--and Arab terrorists have figured out a way to sabotage the spaceship sending Astro Corporation lurching toward bankruptcy.

    Randolph can call for assistance, though. His ex-lover, a U.S. Senator, proposes a law with low-cost government-guaranteed loan for him, his former boss in Japan wants to offer a partnership, and a major oil company offers to buy into the company--but Randolph wants to keep control and keep his business American. Randolph's magnetic personality also makes everyone love him--the Senator, his secretary, the reporter from the Wall Street Journal, pretty much everyone--except the evil terrorists who plan to use his satellite to kill thousands and prevent the U.S. from achieving independence from the oil that has them now occupying most of the Middle East.

    Author Ben Bova (see more reviews of novels by Bova) preaches a tale of adventure and high-technology. Energy from space could make our nation free of foreign power, but terrorists and foolish environmentalists will try to stop it. Bova takes a swipe at global warming threats and makes his environmentalists pathetic and misguided fools. His terrorists, by contrast, are very evil people--as are the oil companies. Good old-fashioned American capitalism, however, can prevail.

    Okay, we have a pretty good plot line here and Bova has himself a message he wants to spread--return to space and solve our problems. So, what's the problem? A couple of problems, actually. First, Bova's writing is stiff. Too many characters think things to themselves, explaining to themselves why they are doing things. Give the reader some credit, Mr. Bova. We really can figure this out. Second, the Casablanca-like love story between Rick--uh, I mean Dan--and the Senator is just annoying. Randolph comes off as a lovesick puppy rather than humanized. For me, it would have helped if he hadn't run out from passionate sex with the reporter when he heard the Senator was coming. Third, the terrorists are a bit too obvious and too stupid for words. Would the evil Asim al-Bashir really let his chauffeur really handle the dirty work involved in corporate espionage? How about a few cut-outs?

    POWERSAT is actually an early book (a prequel) in Bova's series on the exploration of space in the name of America and profit. It's a story I'm sympathetic to and Bova deserves credit for sticking to his beliefs in spite of the world's increasing disinterest in space. I wish he'd left some of the political baggage behind, but even more, I wish he'd let his editor clean up some of the language, letting Bova's strong story out.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 3/03/05

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