Present-day, science-based political thriller from the veteran author and editor (Leviathans of Jupiter, 2011, etc.).
Assistant astronomy professor Jake Ross still grieves for his wife Louise, killed a year ago in an auto accident. He rubs along putting together science experiments for a new Mars rover, and hopes for tenure one day—until his mentor, wise old Lev Cardwell, persuades Jake to meet rich, ambitious Frank Tomlinson, whose goal is to oust incumbent senator Christopher Leeds in the upcoming election. Tomlinson needs an edge and offers Jake a job as his science advisor—if he can come up with an idea. At Cardwell's suggestion he recommends that Tomlinson back MHD, magnetohydrodynamics, a revolutionary, efficient and clean method of generating electricity. Jake becomes doubly motivated when it turns out that Tomlinson's assistant, attractive Amy Wexler, will sleep with him whenever he comes up with a good idea. The university's MHD researchers, irascible Tim Younger and easygoing Bob Rogers, are overjoyed at the prospect of money and support; curiously, however, the project's head, Professor Arlan Sinclair, refuses to support Jake and avoids meeting Tomlinson. Could there be sinister reasons why Sinclair refuses to push his own pet project? There could indeed, and when Sinclair and his wife turn up dead Jake finds himself in an ugly, dangerous battle for which he is totally unprepared. Bova deals with the issues and the politics with his usual workmanlike competence, and he explains the concepts behind the (real) technology clearly—though he tends to skate over the practical difficulties involved. His one real failure is candidate Tomlinson's motivation: Why would a wealthy playboy type think that, in an age when science is routinely derided or ignored, science could boost him into a Senate seat?
Solid if unspectacular—Bova makes his point without belaboring it—and a huge improvement over his flabby previous outing.