Book Review: ‘Apes and Angels’ by Ben Bova

Ben Bova (Credit: Ed Chappell)

‘Apes and Angels’ is the third novel in a series by the well known Science Fiction author Ben Bova. Beginning with ‘New Earth’ the saga continued with ‘Death Wave’ (Which I reviewed in my post of 31May2017) and will continue after ‘Apes and Angels’ with a fourth novel ‘Survival’.

Apes and Angels Cover (Credit: Goodreads)

Let me give you a bit of the background leading up to ‘Apes and Angels’. In ‘New Earth’ a starship voyages to the star Sirius where the crew discovers a planet inhabited by both super-Intelligent machines called Predecessors and human beings whom the machines had brought to Sirius. The machines inform the crew that the black hole at the center of our galaxy has erupted in a powerful burst of gamma rays that will kill all unprotected life in the galaxy. The machines give the starship’s crew the technology necessary to protect Earth in exchange for a promise that humanity will travel to other star systems in our section of the galaxy in order to protect the more primitive civilizations inhabiting those stars.

In “Death Wave’ the starship crew has returned to Earth and informed the government of the approaching gamma radiation. However, since the deadly radiation won’t reach our solar system for another two thousand years the politicians ruling Earth are in no hurry to protect the planet and as far as saving alien cultures is concerned, well let’s just say they’re not interested at all. The spacefarers have to directly convince the people of Earth in order to force the politicians to begin the massive effort to build starships to journey to the other stars threatened by the gamma radiation.

‘Apes and Angels’ then begins with the starship Odysseus arriving at the star Mithra, named for the ancient Persian man-god. Mithra possesses two planets that contain life. Mithra-alpha, closest to the star, has octopus like creatures that make noises to each other and who may be intelligent. Planet gamma has two-armed, two-legged creatures that live in primitive villages who definitely are intelligent.

The expedition to Mithra is led by Adrian Kosoff, a scientist turned bureaucrat who wants to run the mission like a military unit, everybody knowing and doing their job and following, if not orders at least instructions. Kosoff is ambitious and by being the man in charge hopes to get credit for the mission’s success and discoveries.

Kosoff’s nemesis is Brad MacDaniels, a young anthropologist who follows his intuition and likes to break the rules. Much of the plot of ‘Apes and Angels’ revolves around the conflict; non-violent I hasten to add, between these two men.

Of course this is a setup of the usual conflict between generations, between the methodical plodder and the hunch taker, between the tried and true and the new and novel. In my opinion Ben Bova leans a little to heavy on the side of MacDaniels. The younger man’s intuition is always right and he always gets the better of Kosoff.

Better handled is the mystery of the Mithra solar system. As soon as the Odysseus arrives it is quickly realized that the alignment of the planets is not stable. The planet alpha is so close to its sun that it is boiling away while gamma comes so close to beta every 60 years that they will collide within the next million years. The astrophysicists in the Odysseus’ crew determine that something, or someone has disrupted this solar system within the last 100,000 years.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot details so I think I’ll leave it there. The story will continue in the next installment, ‘Survival’ so don’t expect all of the answers. Like all of Ben Bova’s novels ‘Apes and Angles’ was both enjoyable and a quick read but it is just an installment in a larger work. When I finish reading ‘Survival’ I’ll let you know how everything works out.

Survival Cover (Credit: Amazon)

Book Review: Death Wave by Ben Bova

Anyone familiar with Science Fiction knows that Ben Bova is SF royalty. Author of over hundred fiction and non-fiction books Ben Bova has received six Hugo awards, been the editor of both Analog and Omni science fiction magazines as well as a beingĀ a formerĀ President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. I need to take a breath after all that.

Death Wave is Bova’s latest title; actually he’s so prolific I may already be wrong about that. Death wave is a sequel to his earlier novel New Earth so I’ll have to catch you up on what happened in that story.

Death Wave by Ben Bova (Credit Tor Books)

Jorden Kell is the leader of humanity’s first expedition into interstellar space. The expedition finds the dead remains of alien civilizations, their planets sterilized by a wave of gamma radiation that has erupted out of the black hole at the center of our Galaxy.

Only a race of machine intelligences has managed to survive and they warn Jorden Kell and his crew that the Death Wave will reach Earth in 2000 years. The machine intelligences also give Kell the necessary knowledge to produce a force field type technology that can protect us from the Death Wave. In exchange for this assistance humanity is to send space missions to six nearby intelligent but pre-industrial alien species in order to protect them.

All that is back story to “Death Wave” which begins when Jorden Kell and several other members of his expedition have returned to Earth and try to convince the governments of the World of the danger to Earth and the nearby civilizations. But 200 years have passed since the astronauts departed on their mission and the World is not the one they left.

In particular Anita Halleck, the Chairwoman of the World Council is too busy trying to bring all of the Solar System’s bureaucracies under her control to concern herself with a threat to humanity 2000 years in the future, or any threat to alien civilizations at all. What does concern Halleck is her suspicions that Jorden Kell is trying to use his notoriety to supplant her, something she will prevent at any cost.

Add in terrorists who believe Jorden Kell is actually paving the way for an alien invasion, security personnel who do the Chairwoman’s very dirty work and a trip to an orbiting habitat for 200,000 humans and you get a pretty wild escape story. The problem is that most of the science fiction is actually left over from the first novel leaving “Death Wave” with little more than political machinations and a good chase sequence.

I don’t want to give away too much but I think that even Ben Bova felt that way because the ending comes as a bit of a letdown. The bad guys get the drop on the good guys then good guys turn the tables and it’s over!

I’m not saying “Death Wave” wasn’t good. In fact it was quite exciting. It just wasn’t as interesting as “New Earth”. There is a third novel coming in the series, “Apes and Angels” which may already be available. This third novel is going to follow one of the expeditions to rescue the alien civilizations and I think there will be more SF in it. I’ll be certain to let you know after I read it!