Ten thousand men and women, exiled by the restrictive governments of Earth, are riding a man-made habitat to the planet Saturn. They form a volatile community. Some are innocents like Holly Lane, or Manuel Gaeta. Others are idealists like Edouard Urbain, or Kris Cardenas and Nadia Wunderly. And some have much more dangerous plans. Malcolm Eberly, has been placed aboard the Saturn-bound habitat to take over its government. As the mammoth spacecraft nears its destination Eberly manoeuvres to take control of the habitat. His manipulations lead to murder and Holly becomes a hunted fugitive in the habitat's maze of tunnels and underground passageways. Meanwhile, frustrated by Dr. Urbain's intransigence, Gaeta prepares to fly solo through the rings, abetted by Wunderly and Cardenas. What he finds there challenges everyone living in the habitat.
Too many characters with too many agendas vie for prestige and power en route to Saturn aboard the Space Habitat Goddard in Hugo winner Bova's middling follow-up to Jupiter (2001) and Venus (2002). Ten thousand intellectuals and scientists, mostly people who don't agree with the authoritarian regimes controlled by the religious fundamentalists who've taken over Earth's governments, have volunteered, been asked or been forced to leave on the long one-way journey. Among them are Malcolm Eberly, recruited by the Holy Disciples from a prison in Vienna with strict instructions to ensure the population chooses the path of righteousness. Eberly agrees to his covert task, confident he can impose his own rule, but he finds that gaining control is harder than he thought. Holy Disciple spies continually get in his way, while one of his subordinates murders for a promotion. Blackmail, subterfuge and another planned murder pile on top of Eberly's machinations to rig an election. Though Bova thoroughly explores human motivation and desires, readers will have a hard time figuring out who to root for is Eberly a good guy or a bad guy? and an even harder time caring about characters insufficiently fleshed out. Most memorable is the setting, the Goddard, with its echoes of the sailing ships that transported convicts to Botany Bay. FYI:Bova is a past president of the National Space Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America.