cover image Apes and Angels

Apes and Angels

Ben Bova. Tor, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7952-8

In the deeply disappointing final volume of six-time Hugo-winner Bova’s Star Quest trilogy, humans are the ultra-advanced aliens encountering extraterrestrial life. As part of a mission to protect other planets from the “death wave... of gamma radiation” spreading from the core of the Milky Way, the crew of the starship Odysseus voyage to the Mithra star system, where they must negotiate the challenges of contact and the possibility that they are not the first interstellar travelers to visit. Bova’s premise is intriguing, but the execution is at best an untidy, transient retro pleasure, and at worst offensively dated. Flat characterizations are exacerbated by obsolete notions of gender roles, and the supporting cast comprises infelicitously described single representatives of races, ethnicities, and nationalities: the white protagonist whimsically imagines a man of Aboriginal descent as “a black leprechaun,” and a Chinese woman is “physically small, doll-like,” and wearing a tunic with “a high mandarin collar.” The rushed, unsatisfying conclusion also has disconcerting overtones of white-savior heroism. (Nov.)