The Rock Rats

The Rock Rats continues the story of The Precipice, following the story of humanity’s expansion into the Asteroid Belt and all the atrocities that entails.

Characterwise, this book is all over the place. Pancho is great fun, but we don’t see nearly enough of her. Lars is … kind of crazy and revenge driven, a long descent from liking him well enough in The Precipice. Amanda is pretty great, but only when she’s away from either Lars or Humpries. Of all the marriages in the series thus far, why does this have to be the one to stick beyond a single book? They really don’t make much sense together… Trite as the saying may be, she could do better.

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Jupiter

After the first 8 books in The Grand Tour (Mars in particular), Jupiter feels a bit odd at the start. We’re not building up to the eventual discovery of life–the fact that there’s life on Jupiter is presented fait accompli in the first chapters. And not only life… intelligent life (or so is claimed). Jupiter isn’t really about the discovery of life or even really about the idea of life on a research station around Jupiter.

What Jupiter is really about the conflict between religion and science as humanity continues to expand outwards into the solar system. The New Morality controls the politics of the Earth and is doing everything it can to control the solar system. In doing so, they send Grant Archer–a believer and an astrophysicist–to spy on what in the world is going on far out in the dark reaches of the solar system. There’s conflict between science and religion, both on the large scale with the New Morality and the small scale within Grant himself, especially as he begins to settle in and befriend those living on Jupiter station.

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A Curse of Memories

A Curse of Memories continues the story of The Greatest Sin, this time in a ‘closed house’ sort of murder mystery. Fallen have been killed and now everyone is locked into the Tower until the perpetrator is found. At this point, you’re not (and really shouldn’t) start this far into a series… but if you’ve read this far, this is a more than adequate continuation of the story. It’s only a bummer that (as of this writing), this is the end.

Chivali remains still the real draw of the series. She’s wonderfully snarky and capable of either lying blatantly or making the truth dance as she needs. Take this scene where a truth finder is employed to question her:

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The Precipice

The Precipice does two things rather well: it introduces technology that will change the Grand Tour universe and it makes me actually … kind of like Dan Randolph.

For the former, we finally have one possible solution to the fundamental problem of near future science fiction:

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Illusive Echoes

Illusive Echoes continues following Chivalis second life as an agent of the Fallen, sent on all manner of weird missions throughout the world with her fellow agents. This time around, they have to find a statue of a cat. Made all the more interesting with flavors of gang warfare and corrupt law enforcement and royalty. Pretty crazy. I still want to see more about those Drowned Ones, but at least we get a few hints this time around. Not yet forgotten.

To me, the most interesting part and real draw of these stories remains the interactions between Chivali and the other Fallen.

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Return to Mars

Return to Mars finishes what Mars started–and I really feel like they might have been better as one book. There was such a huge tantalizing idea dangled in front of us in the first book–not only life on Mars, but intelligent life?–only for a rush to the ending so that we never got to actually get answers. At least we do actually get answers in Return to Mars, but in such a way that it really feels like half the same book.

Plotwise, Return to Mars does at least explore some interesting ideas in how Martian exploration may actually take shape in the future, with private backing and a profit motive, rather than as a purely government run, scientific endeavor. It’s an interesting contrast to Mars at least, even if it feels like they’ve taken a number of steps back from the first mission in effort to cut costs (one assumes).

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Moonwar

Moonwar finishes the story of Moonrise, really establishing Moonbase as a power in the solar system in its own right and a refuge from the growing New Morality movements on Earth–especially when it comes to developing nano-technology.

There are certainly parts of the story that are hard to believe–particularly just how much control the UN has over … well, anything, but especially the media. It’s just… strange and feels like a manufactured threat. On the other hand, the idea of a religious far right growing to power and working to completely ban ‘unnatural’ technology (like nanomachines) feels altogether too prescient.

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Moonrise

A bit of a jump in focus and topic from Mars , Moonrise is more similar to Privateers et al (the Dan Randolph books), with more of a focus on corporate structure over science.

Amusingly, despite the title/series, Moonrise is only tangentially about the Moonbase, despite a large chunk of the book taking place there. Really, it’s about the bizarre broken family and corporate dynamic of Masterson Aerospace and the rise of nanotechnology in Ben Bova’s universe. From what I remember of other books in the series (from more than a decade ago), the rise of technology and the idea of it being banned on Earth for religious reasons is a fairly major plot point from here on out, so it’s interesting to see how that all began.

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