Ah Ha! If you are reading this, you are spending time in the Science Fiction section of the Outpost Library. And, have probably noticed that I am a huge fan of Ben Bova, one of the most prolific sci-fi writers of our time. He has been doing this forever it seems. Found "Venus" in an airport on another one of my trips east, and finished it before I got to where I was going. Almost 400 pages of excellent reading and writing. So, on to the business at hand.
Martin Humphries is a real son-of-a-bitch. He is a tyrannical father, an unscrupulous business man, a woman chaser and a lout. He also controls one of the biggest corporations that supports, as well as engages in, space exploration. Earth, as in most of these Ben Bova novels, is in trouble, and mankind is reaching for the stars, escaping the mess they made in hopes of a better life somewhere else. The Moon has been colonized, Mars is on the agneda, but Venus is where Humphries has set his sights.
Years ago, Alex Humphries, Martin's oldest son, was killed on the first manned mission to the surface of Venus. His body was never recovered. The old man is mean and bitter, and has been taking this loss out on his younger son, Van. Now, he wants his oldest son's body returned and is prepared to sacrifice his remaining son to have his way. In a devious and underhanded way, he completely cuts off Van's money (they are really, really rich) and then sets a reward of $10 billion dollars to whoever returns the remains. Of course Van has to take the dare, and that sets the story in motion.
There is an old adversary, Lars Fuchs; a girl (of course), Marguerite; the Captain of the ship, Desiree Duschamps; the Exec. Officer, Rodriquez. and a crew of other assorted characters. As usual, Bova does a bang up job of back-story on the cast and crew, especially Van Humphries. This guy has alot of baggage in this trip and it is an enthralling character study of this man that is the center of the book.
And, of course, there is Venus. It is a totally inhospitable world - we can't live there, at least not yet. The author has obviously done his research on this one, because the descriptions of the trip to Venus, and the descent to the surface are riviting. The problems that begin to overtake the mission are startling, and scientifically plausible. And the detailed descriptions of the two ships on the mission, the Hesperos and Lucifer are amazing constructs, designed to withstand the incredible radiation, temperatures and atmospheric pressuers as they get closer and closer to the planet surface.
As usual, I am not going to tell you how the story ends. You have to read it yourself. But if you enjoy a good mystery in space, an escape to a hostile planet and Ben Bova's usual excellent writing about a place we will get to eventually. I recommend this one. It is, I think, better than the ones he did about Mars.