9 Best Ben Bova Books

Ben Bova wrote over 120 science fiction and fact books and won the Hugo six (!) times. Unfortunately, he recently passed away at the age of 88 due to Covid-19-related pneumonia and a stroke. This list is a tribute to his vast body of work, which focused on hard science.

However, his writing style may come across as dated to modern readers, as does an occasional reliance on clichés and stock characters.

 

9
New Earth
by Ben Bova – 2013

The world is thrilled by the discovery of an Earthlike planet. Advance imaging shows oceans of liquid water and a breathable, oxygen-rich atmosphere. A human exploration team is dispatched to explore the planet, now nicknamed New Earth. The explorers understand they’re on a one-way mission. The trip takes eighty years one way, so even if they are able to return to Earth, nearly two hundred years will have passed. Their friends and family will be gone. The explorers are not the best available: they are expendable.

Upon landing on the planet they find a group of intelligent creatures who look like humans. Are they native to this world or invaders? Moreover, the scientists begin to realize that the planet cannot be natural. Rather, could New Earth be an artifact?

“Bova proves himself equal to the task of showing how adversity can temper character in unforeseen ways.”
—The New York Times

8
Mars Life
by Ben Bova – 2008

Jamie Waterman discovered the cliff dwelling on Mars, and the fact that an intelligent race lived on the red planet sixty-five million years ago, only to be driven into extinction by the crash of a giant meteor. Now the exploration of Mars is itself under threat of extinction, as the ultraconservative New Morality movement gains control of the U.S. government and cuts off all funding for the Mars program.

Meanwhile, Carter Carleton, an anthropologist who was driven from his university post by unproven charges of rape, has started to dig up the remains of a Martian village. Science and politics clash on two worlds as Jamie desperately tries to save the Mars program and uncover who the vanished Martians were.

7
Orion
by Ben Bova – 1984

John O’Ryan is not a god… not exactly. He is an eternal warrior destined to combat the Dark Lord through all time for dominion of the Earth. Follow him, servant of a great race, as he battles his enemy down the halls of time, from the caves of our ancestors to the final confrontation under the hammer of nuclear annihilation.

“Never-stop action and mind-bending concepts combine to make Orion absolutely unforgettable… Ben Bova brings it to intense life on a canvas spread over time and space.”
—Isaac Asimov

6
Moonwar
by Ben Bova – 1997

While Moonbase has been flourishing under Dougl Stavenger’s management, its existence, and even Stavenger’s life, both depend on nanotechnology that has been outlawed on Earth in response to a wave of suspicion, fear, and violence. Soon, United Nations peacekeepers arrive on the moon to enforce the anti-nanotech laws, bringing with them intrepid news reporter Edith Elgin, who soon falls for Stavenger. Meanwhile, his mother has chosen to return to Earth, but upon arrival she is held hostage by the secretary general of the UN who wants Stavenger to surrender his forces—and to be killed.

Slick politicians, beautiful television anchors, and calculating corporate barons provide complex and engaging scenery: imagine Washington in the space age, with nonstop action and cool technology.

“An exciting high-tech adventure.”
—Publishers Weekly

5
Moonrise
by Ben Bova – 1996

In the twenty-first century, the world is on the brink of a scientific renaissance, about to birth a future where space has become privatized and the moon transforms into a fertile commercial ground. As former astronaut Paul Stavenger works to turn a handful of abandoned government moon shelters into a full-fledged moonbase, powerful corporate lobbies align against him. Against the neo-Luddites is Masterson Aerospace, a company funding and creating major scientific breakthroughs.

But Masterson is nearly crippled when its CEO commits suicide and his wife, Joanna, backs her lover Paul Stavenger, the former astronaut, over her mentally unbalanced son Greg in the board election that follows her husband’s death. So begins a power struggle that leads to murder and the ultimate conflict over Moonbase.

“Ben Bova is trying to make us grow up… There’s certainly enough techie ornamentation, both in theory and in plausible practice, to satisfy the pocket-protector crowd, but there’s also more, and better developed, conflict among characters than many folks would expect.”
—The San Diego Union-Tribune

4
Return to Mars
by Ben Bova – 1999

Six years after the first manned Martian expedition, a second has been announced—one motivated purely by its profitable potential—and half-Navajo, half-Anglo geologist Jamie Waterman’s conflicted soul is beckoning him back to the eerie, unforgiving planet.

As commander of the new exploratory team, he will have to contend with a bitter and destructive rivalry, a disturbing new emotional attraction, and deadly, incomprehensible “accidents” that appear to be sabotage, all of which could doom the mission to failure.

But there is much more at stake than Waterman’s personal redemption and the safety of his crew. For there are still great secrets to be uncovered on this cruel and enigmatic world, not the least being something he glimpsed in the far distance during his first Martian excursion: an improbable structure perched high in the planet’s carmine cliffs, a dwelling that only an intelligent being could have built.

3
Titan
by Ben Bova – 2006

2095. After long months of travel, the gigantic colony ship Goddard has at last made orbit around Saturn, carrying a population of more than of 10,000 dissidents, rebels, extremists, and visionaries seeking a new life. Among Goddard‘s missions is the study of Titan, which offers the tantalizing possibility that life may exist amid its windswept islands and chill black seas.

When the exploration vessel Titan Alpha mysteriously fails after reaching the moon’s surface, long buried tensions surface among the colonists. Eduoard Urbain, the mission’s chief scientist, is wracked with anxiety and despair as he sees his life’s work unravel. Malcolm Eberly, Goddard‘s chief administrator, takes ruthless measures to hold onto power as a rash of suspicious incidents threaten to undermine his authority. Holly Lane, the colony’s human-resources director, must confront the station’s powerful leaders to protect the lives of its people. And retired astronaut Manuel Gaeta is forced to risk his life in a last, desperate attempt to salvage the lost probe.

Torn by intrigue, sabotage, and an awesome discovery that could threaten human space exploration, a handful of courageous men and women must fight for the survival of their colony, and for the destiny of the human race.

“[Bova] maintains a brisk pace as the narrative rises to a thunderous and even triumphant climax.”
—Booklist

2
Jupiter
by Ben Bova – 2000

Grant Archer only wanted to study astrophysics. But the forces of the “New Morality,” the coalition of censorious do-gooders who run 21st-century America, have other plans for him.

To his distress, Grant is torn from his young bride and sent to a research station in orbit around Jupiter, to spy on the scientists who work there. Their work may lead to the discovery of higher life forms in the Jovian system—with implications the New Morality doesn’t like at all.

What Grant’s would-be controllers don’t know is that his loyalty to science may be greater than his desire for a quiet life. But that loyalty will be tested in a mission as dangerous as any ever undertaken—a mission to the middle reaches of Jupiter’s endless atmosphere, a place where hydrogen flows as a liquid, and cyclones larger than planets rage for centuries at a time.

What lurks there is more than anyone has counted on… and stranger than anyone could possibly have imagined.

1
Mars
by Ben Bova – 1992

Jamie Waterman is a young Navaho geologist who is picked for the ground team of the first manned expedition to Mars. He will be joining an international team of astronauts and scientists. But once the crew land on the red planet, they soon discover they must battle not only the alien land on which they have invaded but earthbound bureaucrats as well. When they come face to face with a chasm ten times as deep and large as the Grand Canyon, all twenty-five astronauts must face the most shocking discovery of all…

“A splendid book… Of his many books, Mars must be the most important.”
—Arthur C. Clarke

6 thoughts on “9 Best Ben Bova Books

  1. I didn’t know Ben had died. I’m very sorry to hear this. He was a fine sci-fi writer. I see I’ve missed a great number of his books. I do have the Jamie Waterman “Mars” series as well as some more and a couple of anthologies he edited. I like his work.

  2. For anyone trying to break into science fiction writing, Ben wrote one of the best books around ” The craft of Writing Science Fiction the Sells”. It focuses on short stories as well as novels, is simple to understand and uses some useful examples.

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