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            Rock Rats
            By: Ben Bova
            Science Fiction
            Reviewed By: James Hollenbeck
            Review Date: 1/16/04

            What happens when you cross the CEO of a corporation that's out to own the entire asteroid belt? What happens when that CEO also obsessively seeks your wife? For you, the answer is nothing good, but for the reader the answer is Rock Rats, a decent but depressing story.

            The conflict between Lars Fuchs (don't ask me how to pronounce that) and the CEO, Martin Humphries, is the main conflict of Rock Rats. All around them is a cast of characters including miners, business people, assassins and a united world government that all suffer because of the conflict. Bova makes no attempt to give the reader a happy story. Instead the plot follows a course that looks all too like real life. It makes for an interesting story if you're not looking for sunshine on every page.

            Rock Rats is the second book of Ben Bova's Asteroid Wars series, which is itself part of a larger series about mankind's expansion through the solar system. I found out about these series only after I was half way through Rock Rats. Having not read the other books was not a problem though. Rock Rats stands by itself very well. It still wouldn't hurt to start at the beginning of the series. This book is intriguing enough that I may read the other books.

            Note that if I didn't know it was part of a series I would have given it a lower rating. Once I found out Rock Rats was part of a future history I stopped looking for the happy ending, and instead looked at it as if they were real events that just haven't happened yet. The only big problem with this book is that the characters seem a little too emotionally shallow. Anger is the most common emotion expressed. Beyond that you may see one character cry. The rest of the time the characters are simply flat. The two most emotional characters are Lars and Humphries, and they have two emotions: anger and happiness.

            As a sci-fi book, the science is mostly just background. Bova makes things mostly realistic beyond the fusion drive that lets people fly from the Moon to the asteroid belt in four days. Otherwise, combat is done with cutting lasers, and gravity still reigns supreme. Replace the star ships with sailing ships and the asteroids with spices and you'd end up with realistic fiction.

            My final grade for Rock Rats is a B. It's a good book, but not outstanding. If you're looking for a happy story avoid this.