“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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“Death Wave” by Ben Bova (Tor, 2015)


In Ben Bova’s previous standalone novel, New Earth, Jordan Kell traveled to a distant planet and found life that had been created by an advanced form of being akin to that of humans. They learned a lot from these “aliens” with their advanced technologies and way of life. Now Kell has traveled back to Earth with one of the aliens who is his new wife to show her off to the world and let them know of this new Earth.

But there is also something far more important to bring to the attention of the people of Planet Earth. A death wave is traveling through the universe, composed of lethal gamma radiation; it destroys everything in its path and wipes out all life. It will eventually reach Earth, millennia from now, but in the meantime it will wipe out many intelligent civilizations.

Kell launches a campaign to build starships to help save these civilizations, for the people of New Earth have the technology to save them but not the ability. But he must contend with a world government and a leader at its head who is essentially running a world dictatorship.

Like his previous books, Farside and New Earth, Death Wave features short chapters and conflicts get quickly and relatively easily solved. This is not deep, hard, complex science fiction, but a fun story that keeps you turning the page wanting to know what happens next.

Originally written on October 28, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“New Earth” by Ben Bova (Tor, 2013)

New Earth
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Bestselling science fiction award winning author, Ben Bova, returns after setting the stage with Farside. The new Earth-like planet has been discovered and studied, and now some years later the first exploratory expedition is on its way to the distant planet, which is already being called “New Earth.”

The trip takes eighty years each way, as the crew sleeps in cryonic suspension, never aging. By the time they return to Earth, 200 years will have passed. But for now the crew has no thoughts of returning home, but finding out just what is happening on this planet. As everyone is brought out of their long sleep, everything seems to be functioning normally. Before they know it a weird light is seen on the planet and the following day most of the crew go down to explore and discover.

It is soon discovered that “New Earth” is inhabited by a considerable population of very human-like beings. In fact, the similarities are bizarre and at times astounding. Apart from the fact that they are able to speak English, they have names from Earth’s mythology and history, and appear to know a lot about the planet the crew calls home. Clearly there is a big mystery here that needs to be solved; the question is whether these alien beings are friends or enemies?

Originally written on August 26, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Farside” by Ben Bova (Tor, 2013)

Farside
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At a point in the not too distant future, the far side of the moon has been colonized, the modular created town aptly named Farside.  The plan is to build a full-functioning massive observatory to look at the distant stars, and most importantly a distant Earth-like planet, located in the Goldilocks zone, that is hoped to harbor alien life.

But there’s a long way to go between manufacturing the giant mirrors for the telescopes and getting them up and running.  After one of the mirrors is accidentally dropped and cracked, it’s necessary to make a new one, and they’re on a deadline.  So they look at using nano machines, banned on Earth for fear of being used for ill will, on the moon it may be the thing that can save them.  Farside is also a haven for the unwanted, independent from the government and ruling of Earth. But after a series of strange accidents, it’s clear someone doesn’t want this plan to succeed.

Bova does a great job of making this future world believable and realistic, and while the final solution is a little simple and predictable, overall Farside is still a fun science fiction read.

Originally written on June 3, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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