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Power Failure
by Ben Bova
Tor, $27.99, 366 pages
Published: October 2018

I love Bova’s Power series, which started with Power Surge and continued through Power Stat and Power Play. These stories are an addictive mix of SF, politics, and science, showing how we could be using our resources to achieve energy independence, develop cutting edge technology, and actually behave like a first world nation. Too bad it is fiction. Grumble. The point is, the more of us who read these books, the more the ideas will percolate and influence actual events, real people, and significant decision making.

Jake Ross has been the science advisor to career politician Franklin Tomlinson for six years, ever since Tomlinson’s first run for the Senate. His knowledge of obscure, overlooked, but game-changing technologies and the people who develop and champion them made Jake a pivotal member of Tomlinson’s team. Jake essentially put together the platform that won Tomlinson the election.

When Franklin’s driven and driving father, Alexander Tomlinson, dies, his last words to his son are, “I’m only sorry I didn’t live long enough to see you in the White House.” Ever the dutiful son, Franklin resolves to run for President on the Republican ticket, and asks Jake to assemble a new science platform that will capture the imagination, hearts, and votes of the populace. In the wake of his successful Senatorial election, Tomlinson has overseen the United States’ energy renaissance, which has given rise to a slew of tech-based industries, high-paying jobs, reduced unemployment, and world-wide leverage. Not insignificantly, it has also won for him the support of educators around the country; teachers voted for him in enthusiastic droves. 

At first Jake doesn’t think he can produce another rabbit. Might as well wish for the moon, he thinks. The moon….

And so, he sets out to develop a space program revival platform to set Tomlinson a head and shoulders above the competition. It isn’t easy. Past failures—some would call them betrayals—make certain key players unwilling to trust Jake, or Tomlinson. But Jake is certain that an independent space program is key to humanity’s future and Tomlinson’s political career.

But more than one kind of betrayal puts Tomlinson’s bid for the presidency at risk, and dangerous rivalries threaten to take him out of the race completely. How much can good men and women sacrifice, or compromise, and still achieve worthwhile goals? Is it even possible to hold on to your integrity in the arena of DC politics?

I wish Bova had gone into more of the details of how the space sciences would manifest at ground level, and more specifics of space resources. For instance, Arizona State University has a program dedicated to supporting space missions; how would their graduates and professors be involved? Even without those particulars, this is a fascinating, realistic, and hopeful story of what is possible, and should be real.~~ Chris Wozney

For more titles by Ben Bova click here

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