Apes and Angels by Ben Bova, was perhaps one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2017 because I could not wait for the epic conclusion of the story that began with New Earth and continued in Death Wave. What I got with Apes and Angels was neither “epic” nor a conclusion.
New Earth begins with a space expedition to a distance planet that looks like it could support life. So humans board a ship and voyage there to, essentially, have a closer look. Upon arrival it is discovered that this planet isn’t just inhabitable, it is already inhabited by aliens that are essentially human clones. Through the book you learn that a very advanced alien race created the planet in order to one day lure humans there. The advanced alien race knew that it would be dangerous to try and make contact with humans first so believed that the best thing to do was to have humans come to them.
The alien race that so desperately wanted to lure humans to the planet that they created had a dire warning for humanity and felt that humans were the only beings in the solar system who could carry out a task that if not confronted, could wipe out all life in space.
There was a death wave coming and it’s arrival at any planet meant total extinction for every creature that lived there. The task that humans had to take on was whether or not they’d be able to go these far off planets with the technology required to save these alien species from the incoming death wave.
Death Wave, the second book in the Star Quest Trilogy has an all together different tone than New Earth. In Death Wave the plot revolves around the monumental task of convincing the World Council – the earths one world government – that there is an extinction level event approaching Earth (and other life supporting planets) and if the World Council doesn’t act – it will mean the end of life on earth as we know it.
Death Wave does not have any of the space exploration that the first book has and is quite political in nature. You have two people, one human, one alien (a couple) doing all they can to warn a very stubborn government about the approaching doom out in space. By the end of the book you get the sense that, after plenty of persuasion, the couple were successful in their task and World Council is going to take the necessary steps to protect itself and other worlds from the death wave.
By this point, the first two books have developed a rather clear trajectory into what you’d think the third (and final?) book in this trilogy is going to be all about. I, at least, was under the suspicion that Apes and Angels would be about how the World Council ultimately deals with the death wave and the types of missions that it sets up in order to help aid other planets. I was really expecting a lot more about this death wave and, especially, how alien species would respond to news of its approach.
Sadly that is not what I got at all in the final installment of the Star Quest Trilogy. This book is, to be blunt, a mess. The very beginning starts off strong but it’s as if half way through it Ben Bova forgot the premise of his trilogy and just started writing whatever he thought sounded interesting at the time. This book, by itself, created for itself so many plot holes and loose ends that reading it gets frustrating. And if you are wondering about the death wave – don’t bother learning too much in this book.
Apes and Angels is about a mission to a distant star that has multiple planets that orbit it and they all support various life forms. The mission is to visit these planets, set up the necessary screens to protect them from the approaching death wave so that these alien species live and to ultimately study these aliens as well. The book opens with the Desmond Morris quote; “we may prefer to think of ourselves as fallen angels, but in reality we are rising apes,” (a quote also used in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes FIRESTORM). With the first 100 or so pages, the expectations is that you are going to encounter a rich story about contacting alien species and how humanity learns a bit about its self – as well as about the aliens.
But no, you get none of that.
You get a sub-plot about alien squid-like creatures that have a primitive language, but don’t get your hopes up, Bova gives up on those and expects you to forget about them as soon as he does. You then learn about the Gamman’s who live on planet Gamma. You get to read some terrible explanation that Bova provides for the difference between ‘apes and angels’ that is never really addressed again. You get to read about these six-legged cats that ride eggs from their planet to the planet the Gammans are on just to kill them.
You then get to read an argument between the scientists as to whether it is OK or not to save these alien species lives when THE ENTIRE PURPOSE OF THE MISSION IS TO SAVE THEIR LIVES FROM THE DEATH WAVE.
This book really just pissed me off.
In the last section of the book you learn that while all this stupidity that we got treated to in the book was taking place OTHER scientists on the same mission were setting up the screens that would protect these planets from the death wave.
I honestly wish that when TOR received this manuscript from Bova, they should have demanded a rewrite, perhaps drop the stupid love story and focus more on the approaching death wave. And drop this idiot Brad main character all together and focus on a character that is working directly with the anti-death wave screens.
This book was a flop – a flop that sets itself up for equally awful spin-offs that I’m not sure I’ll read.
This trilogy took one hell of a nose dive with this book.
☆☆☆☆ – New Earth
☆☆☆☆ – Death Wave
☆½ – Apes and Angels