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The Sam Gunn Omnibus by Ben Bova
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The Sam Gunn Omnibus (2007)

by Ben Bova

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(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Fans know that within any literary genre, there consists a handful of top-tier "breakout" stars -- people like Stephen King in horror or Tom Clancy in military thrillers -- but that the vast majority of books published in any given genre are instead churned out by a series of lesser-known mid-tier authors, the kind who make modest livings by basically becoming one-person book factories, pumping out a whole series of titles that deliver exactly what hardcore fans of that genre expect from such books but not an ounce more. Science-fiction for example is particularly notorious at this, with a good example of such "journeymen" being Ben Bova, a veteran author who has been cranking out titles for decades now and has won several hundred industry awards over the course of his career, but who nonetheless is barely known by anyone outside of diehard SF conventioneers (a big way that such mid-tier authors even have careers to begin with, by attending convention after convention themselves and literally building their readership one Buffy fan at a time). But whatever you think of such authors, it does leave them with just a wealth of original intellectual property, stuff that can not only be reissued every ten years until the end of time but constantly repackaged in inventive ways too; and that leads us to the brand-new Sam Gunn Omnibus, a whopping 700-page tome collecting up for the very first time all the 50-odd stories Bova has written over the last half-century concerning the eponymous antihero, along with almost 40 linking passages (two- and three-page micro-stories) to help create a consistent narrative and timeline to it all (but with some problems inherent in this process as well, as Bova himself admits in the introduction).

And it's collections like these that are a perfect example of why Bova has never become a breakout star himself, and why his stories are destined to be loved only by the most diehard SF fans out there: because to tell the truth, as one of these diehard fans, I found the stories on display here not bad at all, tight and funny little space operas that as an extra bonus adhere closely to the bigger "Galaxy" storyline Bova has been creating in a series of bigger novels over the last thirty years, a very rational step-by-step look at just how our solar system might someday be colonized by humans one planet at a time, with our swaggering con-man and galactic explorer always seemingly in the middle of every new development along the way. But Lord, if you're not a diehard SF fan, it's hard to like these thoroughly middlebrow genre exercises; they're not only eye-rollingly goofy most of the time, with plot points that fairly telegraph themselves from the first page, but are really really sexist too in about the most immature sense of the term, the kind of "boobies in space" tripe that used to be rampant back when this genre's fanbase mostly consisted of pimply antisocial Comic Book Guys, the exact type of borderline-misogynist silliness that many contemporary female SF authors claim that they got involved in the industry themselves precisely to combat. It makes it a hard book to love, but one that some of you will anyway, harmless fun or outdated trash depending on who you are; I myself neither particularly loved nor hated it, which is why it's getting the middle-of-the-road score today that it is.

Out of 10: 7.5 ( )
  jasonpettus | Nov 7, 2009 |
Silly lightweight stories slightly fun; not sure it was worth the time to read. ( )
  Sherm1 | Oct 23, 2009 |
Ben Bova at his best. Which still isn't brilliant but it's quite a bit different from some of his later work. The firsthalf of these stories published as Sam Gunn Unlimited, was one of the first of Bova's works I read many years ago. I instantly liked the irrepresable nature of Sam Gunn and his tales of daring-do against the corporations and women out to get him. This is the complete Sam Gunn story including those early tales and many later additions.

It is told form the view of Jade - a young orphan growing up in Selene, the first city on the moon. Sam Gunn has died, sucked pastthe event horizon of a black hole, and her current job is to erect his statue miles from anywhere on the lunar plains. This intrigues her sufficiently to investigate his life, and she becomes a reporter tracking doen people who knew Sam the best and gathering tales of his exploits and how he ended up in the Black hole. Each person's tale is a short story in it's own right, with a little intersperced details of Jade's story hanging them all together.

Some of the stories are better than others but the essential plot is always the same - Sam attempting to gather sufficient money to fund a business proposal without being overridden by the large corportations that run most of human society. Somehow (and it's never mentioned exactly how) each proposal while initially sucessful always fails leaving him searching for more. In addition there are string after string of increasingly more beautiful women normally attempting to distract him, or else doing nothing but hanging around waiting for Sam to fall for them. It's an incredibly chauvanistic novel, but most of the other characters point this out repeatedly, and so it doesn't come across as too grating.

Mostly it's just fun. It doens't take anythign too seriusly Sam is completely irrepresable and will have you laughing out loud several times, which isn't something SF is normally known for. I'm sure I'll be re-reading this often.
..................................................​..................................................​ ( )
  reading_fox | Jul 30, 2009 |
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A thing worth having is a thing worth cheating for. Attributed to W. C. Fields
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The story of Sam Gunn is inextricably interwoven with the story of a beautiful, vulnerable and determined youong women.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 076531617X, Hardcover)

THE IRREPRESSIBLE SAM GUNN
 
A hero without peer or scruples, Sam Gunn has a nose for trouble, money, and women--though not necessarily in that order.  A man with the ego (and stature) of a Napoleon, the business acumen of a P. T. Barnum, and the raging hormones of a teenage boy, Sam is the finest astronaut NASA ever trained…and dumped.
 
But more than money, more than women, Sam Gunn loves justice.  (And he really does love money and women.)  Whether he's suing the Pope, helping twin sisters entangled in the "virtual sex" trade, or on trial for his life on charges of interplanetary genocide, you can be sure of one thing: this is one space jockey who'll meet every challenge with a smile on his lips, an ace up his sleeve…and a weapon in his pocket.
 
Now, for the first time between covers, Hugo-winner Ben Bova presents all the tales of Sam Gunn to date, including three never before collected in book form.  Here is the entire chronicle of Sam Gunn, trailblazer and scoundrel, as he scams his way from one end of the Solar System to the other, giving bold new meaning to the term "venture capitalist."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:36 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Here is the entire chronicle of Sam Gunn, trailblazer and scoundrel, as he scams his way from one end of the solar system to the other, giving bold new meaning to the term "venture capitalist."

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