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Bert Gentry Lee (born 1942) is the chief engineer for the Planetary Flight Systems Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and also a science fiction writer. He had engineering oversight responsibility for the twin rover missions to Mars that landed in January 2004, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2006, and the Deep Impact and Stardust missions. He was also the chief engineer for the Galileo project from 1977–1988 and director of science analysis and mission planning during the Viking projects.
As an author he is best known for co-writing, with Arthur C. Clarke, the books Cradle in 1989, Rama II in 1989, The Garden of Rama in 1991 and Rama Revealed in 1993. He collaborated with Carl Sagan on the 1980 series Cosmos.
Rendezvous With Rama was written in 1972 and Clarke had no intention of writing a sequel. Lee attempted to turn the Rama series into a more character-driven story following the adventures of Nicole des Jardins Wakefield, who becomes the main character in Rama II, The Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed. When asked, Arthur C. Clarke said that Gentry Lee did the writing while he was a source of ideas.
Lee went on to write three more science fiction novels after Rama Revealed. Two take place in the Rama universe (Bright Messengers, Double Full Moon Night) while one makes several references to it (Tranquility Wars).
In 2009, Gentry narrated and appeared in Discovery Channel's 2-hour special "Are We Alone", which examined the possibility of life on other worlds in the solar system.
Critical response to writing
Lee's writing has been criticized for excessive descriptions of the characters' personal lives and especially plentiful sex scenes unrelated to the plot, reminiscent of romance novels. In one critic's words:
- "[ Cradle, a novel coauthored by Lee] just drags on and on and is littered with unnecessary sex scenes that, if you read much of Gentry Lee’s work, you will find is one of his obsessions. I fail to understand why Lee feels that he must include sex scenes in the middle of a science fiction novel that have nothing to do with the story. Once would be OK, but after about the fourth time I found myself dropping the book and thinking 'again?!'"
Lee has also been criticized for a stereotypical portrayal of race in his work and his unusually abundant use of terms such as black, white, Arab and Mexican to describe characters.
- Gentry Lee at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Gentry Lee at IMDB