Addition to Bova’s near/medium-future series about the exploration and exploitation of the solar system (Venus, 2000, etc.). Earth is dying of climatic change, pollution, overpopulation, and natural disasters. Industrialist Dan Randolph wants to save the planet; his rival, the rapacious Martin Humphries, doesn’t give a damn—he wants to own the solar system. Both agree that the asteroid belt offers a new frontier, with virtually limitless resources, but it’s too distant to reach using current technology. On Earth, all Dan’s best efforts are stymied by the regressive New Morality, currently in charge of just-about-everything, and his Astro corporation is all but bankrupt. Humphries covets Astro and hatches an underhanded scheme to gain control. Humphries’s researchers have invented a revolutionary space drive that, powered by a portable fusion reactor, could send a spaceship to the asteroid belt and back in a month. He gives Dan the reactor for nothing, intending to await developments, sabotage Dan at a critical moment, then buy control of Astro when its shares plummet. Circumstances, too, give Humphries a personal reason to ensure that Dan’s maiden flight to the asteroids fails. Can Dan and his tough, experienced pilot Pancho Lane somehow turn the tables on Humphries?
Spaceworthy nuts-and-bolts, tense action, intriguing plots, and a thoroughly nasty villain: perhaps the most impressive entry yet in this reliable and increasingly significant series.