Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: The Rock Rats

Author: Ben Bova
Pages: 448
ISBN: 9780340769591

The Rock Rats, the second novel in the Asteroid Wars series, continues where The Precipice left off and deals with the events of the first asteroid war.  The asteroid belt is now the new Wild West with people rushing to stake their claim on resource rich asteroids.  It’s a futuristic gold rush where the stakes are high and the payoffs immense, provided that they can stay alive long enough to reap the benefits.

Martin Humpries, the head of Humpries Space Systems (HSS), wants the asteroid belt to himself and he doesn’t mind killing innocents to get his way.  He hires ruthless mercenaries to act as pirates in an effort to drive his competitors as well as independent prospectors out of business and out of the belt.

Lars Fuchs is the only man willing to stand up to Humpries and HSS.  After being driven to breaking point he becomes a renegade and decides to fight fire with fire and resorts to piracy as well.  He acts as a lone champion for his fellow Rock Rats, swooping in to protect them from the HSS mercenaries and giving Humpries a taste of his own medicine.

The Verdict
I quite enjoyed the novel, but it wasn’t as good as The Precipice.  I think it mainly boils down to the fact that I loved the initial ideas shown in The PrecipiceThe Rock Rats is more action packed and features the first space battles in the series.  The battles are very realistic.  No fancy maneuvers or fantastical weapons.  They rely largely on luck and getting the first shot in before your opponent gets the chance to do the same to you.

The characters could be better developed and once again the focus on Amanda’s beauty was slightly irritating, but much less so than in the first novel.  Humphries remains a thoroughly despicable antagonist and you find yourself rooting for the little guy, Lars Fuchs, with abandon.  Unfortunately there’s no happy ending, but I guess that goes with the territory for a second novel in a series.

If you like science fiction that focuses more on the possible reality of human space exploration then this novel, and the rest of the series should be on the top of your reading list!

Rating: 7/10

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