Review of 'Privateers'

Privateers by Ben Bova

privateers.jpg Written prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, “Privateers” envisions a world where the Soviet Union dominates both world politics but also the exploitation of space with even the (mighty) United States forced to retreat from their prime role in the world affairs. The Soviets operate a mining operation on the moon with other countries maintaining space stations and factories in Earth's orbit. Now living in Venezuela former astronaut Dan Randolph is head of the mining company “Astro Manufacturing” and has eyes on confronting the monopoly of the Soviets. Randolph secretly builds a spaceship that allows him to capture and mine an asteroid which greatly aggravates the Russians, taking him on a dangerous path to self destruction. Randolph's personal life is as colourful as his professional one with one night stands featuring highly until he captures the eye of Lucita, the daughter of the Venezuelan Minter of Technology, who quickly falls in love with the irresponsible, yet irresistible (evidently) entrepreneur. Unfortunately for Randolph, Lucita has also attracted the amorous attention of Malik, chairman of the Soviet Combined Space Forces, who wants to take her for his wife…at any cost. Will the forces of the west defeat the omnipotent Soviet empire?

Yeah, it is dated, but “Privateers” is interesting in a number of ways, particularly the way Bova imagines the way the world might have gone had the communists remained in control of Russia but also in the technology of mining space. Unfortunately, a lot of the book is spent dwelling on the Randolph's social life and the “evil” machinations of the red empire. It is such a cliché - The “evil Russians” that I find it hard not to roll my eyes when this comes up in literature particularly when it comes from an American perspective, as this does. Yawn. Why can't we have something a bit more original than good guy (Americans) and bad guy (Russians)? In any case, all of the personal and political stuff just seems to go and on making it a bit boring after a while with the only interest being who the Russians will kill next (no one is safe except, it seems, Randolph) and how they will be killed (there is a bit of imagination shown here). At 380 pages there is a lot of real estate to go on and on in…The few bits of action and technology are few and far between so attract interest when they come up otherwise we are treated to more scenes of Randolph trying to thwart the reds (hurrah!) or indelicately dealing with the people around him.

Having said all this, I did find the book a reasonably good read if you take it with a grain of salt and overlook both the political and human sociological aspects but since this is a big part of the narrative it is often a bit tough going. Bova is, however, a good writer and given that it is one of his early works I can forgive him all of this and read it anyway. It has echoes of the “Grand Tour” and “Asteroid Wars” series that were to follow. But “Privateers” is no where near his best.

Rating: “Not great, but not the worse”

Review Date: 2018-05-10

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: methuen

Publication Date: 1986

ISBN: 0413416003

Other reviewed books by Ben Bova: