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Award-winning author Ben Bova brings us New Earth, his latest tale of science fiction in his Grand Tour series.
The entire world is thrilled by the discovery of a new Earthlike planet. Advance imaging shows that the planet has oceans of liquid water and a breathable oxygen-rich atmosphere. Eager to gain more information, a human exploration team is soon dispatched to explore the planet, now nicknamed New Earth.
All of the explorers understand that they are essentially on a one-way mission. The trip takes eighty years each way, so even if they are able to get back to Earth, nearly 200 years will have elapsed. They will have aged only a dozen years thanks to cryonic suspension, but their friends and family will be gone and the very society that they once knew will have changed beyond recognition. The explorers are going into exile, and they know it. They are on this mission not because they were the best available, but because they were expendable.
Upon landing on the planet they discover something unexpected: New Earth is inhabited by a small group of intelligent creatures who look very much like human beings.
Who are these people? Are they native to this world, or invaders from elsewhere?
While they may seem inordinately friendly to the human explorers, what are their real motivations? What do they want?
Moreover, the scientists begin to realize that this planet cannot possibly be natural. They face a startling and nearly unthinkable question: Could New Earth be an artifact?
Thornberry. The roboticist was poking away at his console’s touchscreen, muttering darkly. But his console’s displays remained stubbornly blank. There’s nothing you can do for him, Jordan told himself, except let him do his work without the rest of us breathing down his neck. He followed his brother and Elyse down the passageway to the area where the living quarters were. Brandon stopped in front of the door to his quarters. “What now?” he asked Jordan. “I don’t know about you, but I intend to
twelve of them were seated, he began to announce his decisions. “As you know,” he began, “I try to manage our group on a consensus basis. We’re not a hierarchical organization, not like a university department. While we have leaders in the various fields of interest, such as astrobiology—” Meek dipped his chin in acknowledgment. Jordan went on, “All of you have been cross-trained in different specialties.” Thornberry interrupted, “And we have a squad of robots to help us.” Nodding, Jordan
the biologist muttered, “What’s done is done.” “Can’t argue with that,” Jordan said, feeling somehow cheerful, buoyant. They rode on for another few minutes, and then Jordan saw stone buildings standing among the trees. Large buildings, several stories high, with flat roofs green with lush gardens. A small crowd of people was clustered in front of the nearest building. “It’s a regular city!” Brandon cried out. And indeed it was. Adri directed them down a central street, flanked on either side
happily. “Hazzard’s flying the bird in person, he is.” “Great,” said Brandon. “Jordy and I are here at the glade, waiting for you.” “Be with you shortly,” Thornberry said. Then the phone’s little screen broke into hissing static and went blank. “Plasma blackout,” Brandon muttered. Adri, standing on Jordan’s other side, said, “I would like to invite your friends to stay in our city. We have adequate facilities to take care of them all.” Jordan smiled doubtfully. “I’m sure they’ll appreciate
de Falla insisted. “Your program’s got to be wrong,” said Brandon. “Why don’t you get Thornberry to take a look at it?” “I already have. He and Tanya went over everything. They couldn’t find the glitch either.” Brandon made a sour face. “Well, something’s screwed up someplace. Hollow planets don’t exist.” “Trouble is,” de Falla went on, “the computer’s model is so damned specific. It shows a shell a couple of hundred kilometers thick, and inside it—nothing. It’s hollow.” “Can’t be,” said