“Apes and Angels” by Ben Bova (Tor, 2016)


In the second installment of the Star Quest Trilogy, Bova follows the same trajectory he left off in Death Wave. A wave of death is spreading through the Milky Way galaxy, wiping out entire planets whether there’s intelligent life on them or not. A vastly superior alien race contacted Earth to let them know they know how to help these alien worlds who have no clue of what is coming at them.

Apes and Angels is the story of an Earth mission, the crew of the Odysseus, traveling across many light years to Mithra Gamma where they begin studying the beings that live on the planet, with the goal of ascertaining how to contact them and protect them from this oncoming death. It becomes a bit of a Star Trek episode with the “Prime Directive” coming into play, as they grapple with how best to approach the alien race. Meanwhile on a neighboring planet is a primitive aquatic species that has been deemed too simple and primitive to be worth saving, and yet one scientist on the mission believes they are intelligent.

Apes and Angels, while an interesting experiment in what it is attempting to do, has a number of failings. The quick-moving scenes from Death Watch feel like an overly dramatic soap opera in this novel, with relationships and emotions between characters that lead to petty jealousy, making everything pretty heavy handed.

Originally written on February 23, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

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