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Rescue Mode [Hardcover]

Ben Bova , Les Johnson
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

10 Jun 2014
In this gritty and scientifically accurate science fiction adventure from New York Times bestselling author Ben Bova and NASA space scientist Les Johnson, the first human mission to Mars meets with near-disaster when a meteoroid strikes the spacecraft, almost destroying it! Too far from Earth to simply turn around and return home, the eight-person crew must ride their crippled ship to Mars while they desperately struggle to survive. On Earth, powerful political forces that oppose human spaceflight try to use the accident as proof that sending humans into space is too dangerous to continue. The whole human space flight program hangs in the balance. And if the astronauts can't nurse their ship to Mars and back, the voyagers will become either the first Martian colonists - or the first humans to perish on another planet!

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Baen Books (10 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476736472
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476736471
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 558,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Ben Bova has written more than one hundred twenty futuristic novels and nonfiction books, and has been involved in science and high technology since the very beginnings of the space age. His Baen books include "Mars, Inc. "and "Laugh Lines. "President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction Writers of America, Bova received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in 2005, "for fueling mankind's imagination regarding the wonders of outer space." His 2006 novel "Titan" received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year. In 2008 he won the Robert A. Heinlein Award "for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature." Bova is a frequent commentator on radio and television and a widely popular lecturer. His articles, opinion pieces and reviews have appeared in "Scientific American, Nature," "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal," and many other newspapers and magazines. Earlier, he was an award-winning editor and an executive in the aerospace industry. His Grand Tour novels, such as bestseller "Mars," combine romance, adventure, and the highest degree of scientific accuracy to show how the human race will expand through the solar system, and the impact this will have on individual human lives and society as a whole. Bova has taught science fiction at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he has also directed film courses. Bova currently lives in Florida. Les Johnson is a NASA physicist and author. By day, he serves as the Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In the early 2000s, he was NASA's Manager for Interstellar Propulsion Research and later managed the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project. He was technical consultant for the movie "Lost in Space" and has appeared on the Discovery Channel series, "Physics of the Impossible" in the "How to Build a Starship" episode." "He has also appeared in three episodes of the Science Channel series "Exodus" "Earth." He is the author of novel "Back to the Moon, "coauthored with Travis S. Taylor, and the coeditor of the groundbreaking science/science fiction collection "Going Interstellar."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Another ‘First Mission to Mars’ 6 Aug 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Ben Bova is a safe bet when it comes to near-future science fiction. He likes to litter his work with contemorary references, advances in science an culture, with just a hint of scientific plausibility and this co-authored work is no different. Unfortunately, neither is the plot.
There are quite a few ‘First Missions to Mars’ books out there, some actually written by Bova, which present various scenarios, ranging from the entirely plausible to the frighteningly ludicrous. This particular tome sits near the plausible end, using current scientific knowledge and expectations as a background to a solid, if unimaginitive, plot.
We get segments of the development of the first manned mission to Mars, followed by a detailed launch and trip to the red planet. Keeping to (relatively) current politics, it is a multi-national mission, with the Europeans, Japanese, Canadian, American and Russian space agencies all represented. Obviously, America put up a great deal of the funding, so they get to control what’s going on through an invigorated NASA.
Once in space, the trip is reported through a regular ‘live’ newsfeed using the latest in VR technology to place both the reporter and the viwers directly into the action. This is one of the main elements new to this formula, but the repeated decriptions of how it is being done get old very quickly. The other new device (literally!) is the frequent use of a 3D printer, which they go to some pains to explain for any readers who might ot have caught up with this little piece of magic yet. Again, the explanation feels out of place and forced, taking you away from the ongoing narrative.
These minor irritations aside, the story is actuall quite well written, with some nice passages on the surface of Mars itself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another dated Mars novel 8 Jun 2014
By TChris - Published on
Rescue Mode is the latest installment in Ben Bova's ongoing obsession with Mars. One of the characters even argues that Mars is proof of God's existence. Seriously? In Bova's previous novel, Mars, Inc., a mission to Mars was privately financed. Rescue Mode has NASA spearheading the mission with assistance from other countries. Bova dresses up the novel with one or two ideas that are trendy in current science fiction (3D printers make an appearance) but at its heart, Rescue Mode, like Mars Inc., is another tired novel that could have been written in the 1950s.

Mars Inc. focused on the preparation for a flight to Mars while Rescue Mode focuses on the flight itself. In both novels, things go wrong and adversity must be overcome. Other themes from Mars Inc. are reprised here: virtual reality journalism; debates about the benefits of a crewed space missions; the advantages (and political difficulties) of nuclear propulsion; the role of politics in crew selection; the power of science to bond Americans and Russians (Bova doesn't seem to have noticed that commerce has been doing that since the end of the Cold War); and the argument that "rockets make our country strong."

Still, the co-written Rescue Mode is different from Mars, Inc., but not necessarily better. The need to overcome adversity in Rescue Mode takes on a larger role (you might have guessed that from the novel's title) than it did in Mars Inc. and it gives the novel some exciting moments. Not half as many or half as exciting as Andy Weir's The Martian, a similar "overcoming adversity during a mission to Mars" novel that avoids Rescue Mode's stale political debates about the costs and benefits of crewed spaceflight and whether NASA's budget should be cut (a theme more deserving of editorials than modern sf novels). In fact, while everyone in Weir's book was concerned about getting an imperiled astronaut home safely, a fair number of characters in Rescue Mode are more concerned about the space program, which Bova imagines as the critical issue that will drive a presidential campaign. The evil senator who wants to cut NASA's budget was a staple of sf 50 years ago, but Bova seems incapable of moving past those caricatures. The cartoonish ferocity with which the senator opposes crewed space flight (as if that will be the most important political issue in 2035) is laughable.

The central character in Mars, Inc. at least had a personality. No character in Rescue Mode is remotely interesting. A relationship blossoms between two astronauts but it is the kind of "I care about you too much to jump into bed with you" relationship that was common in 1950s sf. If I thought I were going to die in a hobbled spacecraft on the way to Mars, I'd be having all the sex I could get, but maybe that's just me. In any event, the attempts to inject romance into the story produce more schmaltz than honest emotion. Other attempts at characterization are geared toward creating sympathy (one astronaut is a recent widower, another has cancer) but those attempts fail to endow the characters with actual personalities. Dialog among the astronauts often sounds like the ship is crewed by octogenarians.

To give Rescue Mode whatever credit it is due, its predictable plot is stronger than the predictable plot in Mars, Inc. The story moves quickly and the methods the astronauts devise to get themselves out of various predicaments are clever (although some, including "lets grow potatoes," echo Weir's novel). The political machinations in the novel's last quarter, however, are not believable, and they betray a lack of understanding of the president's ability to spend the federal budget in ways that Congress has not expressly authorized. Rescue Mode is not an awful novel, and in the 1950s it would have been regarded as a good novel, but its dated feeling and dull characters weaken its appeal.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let's go to Mars! 30 May 2014
By Paul A. Mastin - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
On the heels of last year's Mars, Inc., sci-fi legend Ben Bova takes a slightly different tack on kicking off a mission to Mars in Rescue Mode. I don't know whether it was his teaming up with Les Johnson that caused the writing to be much improved over Mars, Inc., but Rescue Mode is a much better book.

Set just a few decades in the future, Rescue Mode follows the first crewed Mars mission from prelaunch to return. Bova and Johnson give a lot of detail about the requirements and preparations for the mission. Johnson, a long-time NASA scientist, must have added technical, logistical knowledge to the novel. Everything is very believable, and made me feel like this could start happening today! As Johnson points out in the introduction, "We have the technology to get people to Mars and to bring them safely back to Earth."

These guys are definitely cheerleaders for a Mars mission. Through the course of the story, they address the superiority of human astronauts over robots ("One human mission will gather more information, make more discoveries, than a dozen robot probes."); on the economic impact of space exploration ("We don't shoot the money into space! It's spent right here, on scientist and engineers, on technicians and mechanics and schoolteachers and truck drivers and grocery workers. It adds to our economy. And the knowledge we'll eventually earn will bring an enormous bonus to our economy.); and the overall benefit to society (Exploration of space and Mars "gives people hope, excitement, something to be thrilled about, something to be proud of. And the technology we develop builds our economy better and faster than all the handouts we offer to the people.").

The great thing about Rescue Mode is that even with the didactic, almost propagandistic tone, the story is still primary. There's no hiding that fact that a mission to Mars is perilous, perhaps even fatal for the astronauts, and that difficulties abound. Yet the story offers hope and confidence in human ingenuity and resilience in the face of impending catastrophe.

I was a little disappointed that Bova didn't continue the theme of privately-funded space travel he established in Mars, Inc. I guess Johnson, the NASA guy, convinced him that NASA was the only outfit that could handle such a mission. I enjoyed the characters, the story, and the great push for travel to Mars. Bova and Johnson have me hoping and believing that we'll be sending crewed missions to Mars in my lifetime!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Collision in Space 3 Jun 2014
By Arthur W. Jordin - Published on
Rescue Mode (2014) is a standalone SF novel. It is set two decades from now after a Chinese rover discovers organic molecules on Mars. America, Russia, Europe and Japan decide to build a manned spacecraft to take eight humans to Mars. They power the ship with a thermonuclear engine provided by the Russians.

In this novel, Benson Benson is a Canadian. He is an astronaut and the mission commander of the Arrow.

Ted Connover is an American. He is an astronaut and the mission pilot.

Taki Nomura is Japanese. She is the mission doctor and psychologist.

Catherine Clermont is French. She is a mission geologist.

Hiram McPherson is an American. Hi is the other geologist.

Virginia Gonzalez is an American. She is the communications specialist.

Amanda Lynn is an American. She is the mission biologist.

Mikhail Prokhorov is a Russian. Mike is the mission meteorologist.

Steven Treadway is an American. He is a journalist designated to use the virtual reality equipment on the Arrow to interview the crew.

In this story, the Rock is a stone blasted from Mars by an incoming meteorite, Now it orbits between Mars and just inside Mercury. It has been following a stable orbit for fifteen million years. It is small, barely a foot in diameter, but it is traveling at an average velocity of forty thousand miles per hour.

The mission planning starts years before the departure. When news of the Chinese finds are released, scientists try to convince their politicians to support a manned flight to Mars. The Americans pay for most of the equipment.

Rocket scientists and engineers insist of a nuclear engine. Since so much of the American and Japanese public are afraid of nuclear devices, America underwrites Russian development of the nuclear engine. Russia doesn't have to worry about protestors.

The crew are selected about three years before the launch. Benson is picked as the mission commander for political reasons. Connover isn't happy with that decision, but knows that it wasn't Benson's fault.

Twenty-four days before the launch, the last fuel module doesn't reach the appropriate orbit. Workers at NASA Marshall repurpose an orbital transfer vehicle to push the module to a higher orbit. The orbital change is completed eight days before the launch.

This tale takes Benson, Ted, Taki, Catherine, Hiram, Virginia, Amanda and Mikhail on a voyage to Mars. They have minor bickering on the way. Hi and Catherine are attracted to each other, but she know better.

The Rock is heading toward them. This volume does not have a sequel as yet. Bova has a collection coming out next year. Johnson co-edited Going Interstellar in 2013 and coauthored Back to the Moon in 2012.

Highly recommended for Bova & Johnson fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of spaceflight, natural disasters, and personal relationships. Read and enjoy!

-Arthur W. Jordin
4.0 out of 5 stars Practically Daily News 16 Aug 2014
By wbentrim - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This feels like throw back science fiction which may be an oxymoron. The story is about the first manned mission to Mars. It had the feel of the stories I read as a child which was a long, long time ago in the far, far away.

The most dismaying and probably accurate factor in the story was the way politics impact something as important as space exploration. A President who believes that the world needs a space frontier to both unite it and provide hope is opposed by a self serving senator who want to be President. This would be trite if it wasn't so realistic. You can't pick up the paper (age showing) or read news on the net without an example of political corruption. As I write this, the TV news is discussing a Texas governor's indictment. We have to accept that we live in an imperfect world and hope that the general population can be made to understand how important a viable frontier is to our national psychic.

Probably obvious that the book was preaching to the choir. The technology and industry already jump started by our space program should make it so obvious that space exploration is hardly a waste of money. With the short sighted poltical climate in DC we have to hope that private industry can demonstrate successful space flight and perhaps shame Congress into providing support.

This book is a novelization of my diatribe above.

I enjoyed the book and Ben Bova's periodic editorials in the Naples Daily News.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Mars book by Bova! 5 Jun 2014
By Chris Kaufman - Published on
RESCUE MODE is another great Mars book by Ben Bova, and it is, in my opinion, the best book he has written in the last few years. Bova sets a ticking time bomb on the first page that explodes midway through the book, but I won't give it away here. The characters are well-developed and there certainly is a lot of action that kept me interested. The relatively quick pacing and short chapters kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. I will admit, however, that the dialogue is a little bland sometimes.

As usual, Bova has a message for readers in this book. In RESCUE MODE, he stresses the importance of exploring space and expanding our frontiers. We have limitless knowledge to gain from it, and despite the gigantic costs, it will help our economy in the long term, and Bova expands on that in the book. He also incorporates a 3D printer into this novel to help the scientists on their expedition, a very cool piece of technology that has limitless potential.

I can't wait for Ben Bova's next book, because this one was a definite slam-dunk!
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