Book Update: Farside

I read this book after chatting with a co-worker of mine whom mentioned having liked the author Ben Bova. Upon picking up Farside I wasn’t aware until most of the way through it that it was part of a larger series called The Grand Tour. Despite this book being the ninth book in the series it didn’t really seem to make much difference in just being able to pick it up and just read. I don’t know if that is always true with the books in The Grand Tour series, but it worked out just fine with Farside. I have to say I did like the book and most of the characters even if the setting was somewhat monotone. Then again it was the moon after all. Not much there unless you consider craters scenery.

One of the things about Farside is that it would have to be described as hard science fiction. There is a lot about this book that caters towards readers that like technical details whether it is related to astronomy or nanotechnology. There is a good bit of both laced throughout the book and while it added detail to the story not all of it was technically necessary to understand how it connected the story and characters. The main crux of the story is the complex radio telescopes and observatory that was built on the farside of the moon. This set up for a series unfortunate incidents that catapulted the characters in a chaotic mix of romances, deaths, and rogue nanotechnology that threatened the very lives and work of Farside. The prize was huge for finding out if New Earth was a habitable reality for humans. What would you do to obtain a coveted Nobel? Some would kill for it – literally.

Bova did a good job of slowly building up to the climax, but after about three-fourths of the way through I had figured out who caused the entire mess on the moon. Really, there was only one person who had any motive to sabotage Farside and the work being done there related to the discovery of New Earth. Even with predictability of the ending of the book I did appreciate the care and development that Bova put into building the characters. He was able to create emotions that drew me into the story as I began to like some, dislike some, and others a bit of indifference towards them. I can see why he as won multiple Hugos throughout his writing career. Bova makes you care about what is happening to the characters as a whole because they seem and feel relatable.

Farside was a good book and well written. Being the first book I’ve read of Bova’s I can’t say if it was his best or not. But, it seems to me it’s one of those books that either you’ll like it or you just won’t. At first I had a little trouble pin pointing why that is. While at work this morning over a cup of coffee during lunch it kind of just came to me. It was probably the coffee that caused it. In any case; I think it is the limited setting of the story and the huge amount of hard science influences within the story that can turn off readers. Plus, add in a somewhat predictable ending I think some readers feel dissatisfied with. I have to say at first I felt that way too, but then I had to remind myself that this is not a who-done-it murder mystery. The murders were simply a plot device to move the threat of the rogue nanobots to the point where the other characters had a climatic clash. The idea of political and economic sabotage of rivals is not a new concept even if it takes place on the farside of the moon. It is a reality we face daily.


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