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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Leviathans of Jupiter (Grand Tour series) (audiobook) by Ben Bova

Read by Cassandra Campbell, Gabrielle de Cuir, Samantha Eggar, Rosalyn Landor, Stefan Rudnicki and Judy Young
Published by Blackstone Audio - 2011.
15 hours, 30 minutes

Long-time author Ben Bova adds to his Grand Tour series as he continues his tales of the colonization of our solar system with Leviathans of Jupiter, the sequel to his 2001 novel Jupiter. Some characters are brought forward from his other novels but, in reality, Leviathans of Jupiter also works well as a stand-alone work.

In Jupiter Bova introduced Grant Archer, a researcher that made fleeting contact with gigantic creatures (some are several kilometers wide) that live extremely deep in the oceans of Jupiter. Now, 20 years later, Archer is in charge of Jupiter’s research station and he is determined to prove that those Leviathans are intelligent. He assembles a team of experts and the book follows those experts as they get to know one another and as they determine how they can best meet and interact with an utterly alien life form that may or may not be intelligent.
Jupiter and its moon 

In many ways, Bova’s book is a throwback style book, which is appropriate since Bova is among the last of the oldest living science fiction authors (born in 1932). Its style reminded me of the classic science fiction books from the Golden Age – the point of the book is nothing more than to create an old-fashioned adventure in the stars – in this case it is the wonder of meeting an alien intelligence. The technology is not the star, no long moral pontifications, no hidden meanings - just the adventure of exploration and discovery. But, it is a fun adventure and this is a fun book.

Bova also lets your brain work on a few problems as he tells the story. For example, how would you decipher an entirely new language with no shared experiences to at least start with? These aliens look nothing like us and we look nothing like them. Our lives are utterly different. How can you make any sort of meaningful communication? Luckily, for Archer and his explorers, there is a Leviathan out of the Kin (their word for a group of Leviathans) that is just as curious about the probes that Archer has been sending into Jupiter’s oceans as Archer has been about the Leviathans. The reader is treated to an inside view of Bova’s Leviathan culture and how most of the Kin is unwilling to accept anything new that upsets its idea of how all of life is balanced.

Bova tells the book from several points of view besides that of Archer and the Leviathan. There is a bit of innocent romance and several stock characters that could have been taken from any of a dozen other science fiction books. He even tries to throw in a human villain, Katherine Westfall, a member of the governing body that is supposed to oversee Archer’s research. She is determined to sabotage this research for reasons that do not quite gel. Rather than being a real threat, she becomes more of a sideshow to the real action, which is the difficulty of reaching the Leviathans and then communicating with them.

The audiobook notes on the cover that it is “read by a full cast” – and it is. There are six different readers, which thrilled me when I prepared to listen. I sincerely love the books that are read like the old-fashioned radio plays, with a different actor reading different character’s parts. However, this book has six different readers who simply take turns reading – each getting a section or a chapter and then handing it off to the next reader.

Bova delivers a fun bit of classic science fiction adventure. The possibility of more to come is hinted at as well with several bits of unresolved business left at the end of this book.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova.

Reviewed June on 5, 2011.

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