I’m pretty sure I’ve never read any Ben Bova before this, unless I’ve read a short story in an anthology sometime back in the 1970’s or so. I’m not exactly sure why this is other than the simple fact that there’s too many books and too little time and choices of what to read have to be made. Bova’s books always appeared to be more technical, hard science fiction (I suppose I based this on nothing more than book covers that always had rocket ships on them) and I was more interested in reading fantasy like Howard, Zelazny, and Ellison.
But this book popped up as a potential ARC (advance reading copy) for me so I requested it (despite having a rocket ship on the cover). I figured it was about time I gave Bova a try and according to reports, this was the last book he was working on when he passed away.
Sam Gunn, Jr., as you might guess, is the son of a gunn … Sam Gunn. His mother always told him that Sam Gunn, the famous explorer and entrepreneur, was his father, though Jr never met the man. Gunn Sr probably never knew anything about him. But when Jr becomes an adult he wants to be like his father, an adventurer and entrepreneur. But Sr dies and Jr is left trying to convince people (like the bank) that he is Gunn’s son and therefore just as trustworthy. But no bank will give him a loan based on his say-so.
But if what Jr says is true, then Sam Gunn’s business will become his. Fortunately, there’s a tiny bit of Gunn’s DNA stored in the office safe, proving that Jr really is a chip off the old block. Now everything belongs to Jr … including all the debt that Sr racked up. Jr will be forced to go out and hustle money and business the old fashioned way – like a carny huckster.
Along the way, Jr will fall in love with beautiful women, be betrayed by ruthless men, bribe his way out of imprisonment, and explore the rings of Saturn like no one else. The Sam Gunn legacy lives on through his son.
First, this book is pretty clearly written for the middle school crowd I think. I constantly had throwback impressions of Isaac Asimov’s old Lucky Starr series or Tom Corbett. Everything had a “Gosh golly gee whiz” attitude and Jr. was never challenged with anything he couldn’t just decide would go his way and it would. There really was no challenge, no obstacle – no plot. This was one quick adventure after another with nothing significant happening in any of them (with the possible exception of his girlfriend being taken away by a wealthy man).
This kind of writing worked in the 50’s, but not so much now. What also doesn’t work now is this old-school sexism and racism.
Although the reports are that this is the book Bova was working on when he died, one has to believe that the first draft(s) of this were likely written 50 or more years earlier. It just feels like a book from the 50’s. If not, then Bova the author didn’t grow with the times.
I happen to like classic pulp fiction and I like YA books, so there was some appeal for me but I don’t expect this to appeal to too many young readers or even longtime fans of Bova’s work.
Looking for a good book? Sam Gunn Jr by Ben Bova is a slightly stale YA yarn pulled from the energies of the 1950’s. Pulp adventure fiction readers may find this delightful but most modern readers won’t see the charm.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Sam Gunn Jr.
author: Ben Bova
publisher: Blackstone Publishing
hardcover, 362 pages