A bulging, impressive, all-you-ever-wanted-to-know, you-are-there Martian odyssey, from the veteran writer-editor (Cyberbooks, Voyagers, etc.). In about the year 2020, a huge multinational project gets under way, the bulk of it seen through the eyes of young Navaho geologist and Mars-voyage hopeful Jamie Waterman. Unconcerned with traditional science-fictional plotting and melodrama, Bova focuses tightly on the day-to-day, nuts-and-bolts details: the inordinate amount of politicking necessary to get the project off the ground; the vital cooperation and occasional wrangling between the many participating nations (Russian pilots, American software, Japanese technology and money, plus a sprinkling of Europeans); the months of arduous training; more politicking as science and flight-crew teams are selected from the dozens of expectant trainees--Jamie gets the nod because geologist #1 falls ill, and the much-loathed #2 is forced out by his colleagues; the tensions that build up through long months in space. Neither does the exploration of Mars run smoothly. Stepping down onto the red sand, Jamie offends the powers-that-he by lapsing into Navaho instead of parroting a politically correct prepared speech; a British doctor, hot to seduce one of the female crew members, neglects his job; a meteorite shower nearly destroys the explorers' living quarters; Jamie persuades mission control to let him approach a cliff village he's convinced he finds; the explorers fall mysteriously ill; Jamie's Mars buggy falls into a dust bowl while his crew are too weak to haul themselves out. And, well, of course there's life on Mars! Technically accurate and absorbing if somewhat ponderous at times, with questions and answers reliably in balance: a dependable, satisfying foray into science realism.