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Author: Ben Bova
Publisher: Tor, 2006
Series: The Grand Tour: Book 14
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Hard SF
Space Exploration
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(34 reads / 20 ratings)


Hugo Award-winning editor, author, scientist, and journalist, Ben Bova is a modern master of near-future science fiction and a passionate advocate of manned space exploration. For more than a decade, Bova has been chronicling humanity's struggles to colonize our solar system in a series of interconnected novels known as "The Grand Tour."

Now, with Titan, Ben Bova takes readers to one of the most intriguing destinations in near space: the extraordinary moon of Saturn which made international headlines last year when the Huygens probe sent back remarkable images of its strange landscapes.

2095. After long months of travel, the gigantic colony ship Goddard has at last made orbit around Saturn, carrying a population of more than of 10,000 dissidents, rebels, extremists, and visionaries seeking a new life. Among Goddard's missions is the study of Titan, which offers the tantalizing possibility that life may exist amid its windswept islands and chill black seas.

When the exploration vessel Titan Alpha mysteriously fails after reaching the moon's surface, long buried tensions surface among the colonists. Eduoard Urbain, the mission's chief scientist, is wracked with anxiety and despair as he sees his life's work unravel. Malcolm Eberly, Goddard's chief administrator, takes ruthless measures to hold onto power as a rash of suspicious incidents threaten to undermine his authority. Holly Lane, the colony's human-resources director, must confront the station's powerful leaders to protect the lives of its people. And retired astronaut Manuel Gaeta is forced to risk his life in a last, desperate attempt to salvage the lost probe.

Torn by intrigue, sabotage, and an awesome discovery that could threaten human space exploration, a handful of courageous men and women must fight for the survival of their colony, and for the destiny of the human race.


Chapter One

24 DECEMBER 2095:

It was nearly dawn on Titan. The thick listless wind slithered like an oily beast slowly awakening from a troubled sleep, moaning, lumbering across the frozen land. The sky was a grayish orange, heavy with sluggish clouds; the distant Sun was nothing more than a feeble ember of dull red light smoldering faintly along the horizon. No stars in that smog-laden sky, no lightning to break the darkness; only the slightest hint of a faint glow betrayed where the giant planet Saturn rode high above.

The ice-covered sea was dark, too, with a brittle, cracked coating of black hydrocarbon slush that surged fitfully against the low bluffs that hemmed it in. At their bases the bluffs were ridged, showing where the feeble tides had risen and then fallen back: risen and ebbed, in the inexorable cadence that had persisted for eons. In the distance a methane storm slowly marched across the sea, scattering crystals of black hydrocarbon tholins like a blanket of inkdrops swirling closer, closer.

A promontory of ice suddenly crumbled under the relentless etching of the sea, sliding into the black waves with a roar that no ear heard, no eye saw. Slabs of frozen water slid into the sea, smashing the thin sheet of blackened ice atop it, frothing and bobbing in the water for a few moments before the open water began to freeze over once again. All became still and quiet once again, except for the low moan of the unhurried wind and the ceaseless surging of the waves. It was as if the promontory had never existed.

Titan rolled slowly in its stately orbit around the ringed planet Saturn just as it had for billions of years, as dark and benighted beneath its shroud of ruddy auburn clouds as a blind beggar groping his unlit circuit through a cold, pitiless universe.

But this slow dawn was different. A new kind of day was beginning.

A sudden thunderclap boomed across the ice-topped sea, so sharp and powerful that shards of ice snapped off the frozen bluffs and tumbled splashing into the dark crust below. A flash of light lit the clouds, casting an eerie orange glimmer over the shore of the sea.

Through the clouds descended a thing utterly alien, a massive oblong object that swayed gently beneath a billowing canopy. It descended slowly toward the rounded hillocks that edged the dark, turbid sea. As it neared the icy surface another flash of brilliant, searing light burst from beneath it with a roar that echoed off the ice mounds and across the wavelets of the murky sea. Then it settled slowly onto the uneven surface of one of the knolls, squatting heavily on four thick caterpillar treads as its parachute canopy sagged down to droop over its edge and halfway to the black encrusted sea.

The creatures living in the ice burrowed deeper to escape the alien monster. They had neither eyes nor ears but they were delicately sensitive to changes in pressure and temperature. The alien was hot, lethally hot, and so heavy that it sank through the soft surface mud and even cracked and powdered the underlying ice beneath its bulk. The ice creatures moved pitifully slowly; those directly beneath the massive alien were not fast enough to avoid being crushed and roasted by its residual heat. The others nearby wormed deeper into the ice as quickly as they could, blindly seeking to escape, to survive, to live.

Then the black tholin storm reached the cliffs and swirled over the alien monster. Silence returned to the shore of Titan's frigid sea.

Copyright © 2006 by Ben Bova


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