Book three in the Star Quest series takes us 200 years from Earth to a star system with a strange alien species that reminds me of Earthworm Jim – minus the ray gun, of course.
Apes and Angels
By Ben Bova
Series: Star Quest
Book number: 3
Brad is dealing with a trauma that no one should – the tragic deaths of his parents and younger brother. He was only a teen at the time, and like many teen boys do, he’d had a disagreement with his dad just before he stormed out of his apartment, shoved his lanky frame into an environment suit, and went outside with his camera.
He knew something was wrong when he heard the rumbling of rocks falling from high up the Martian cliff, at the base of which, sat his home. Sadly, there was nothing he could do to stop the landslide that killed his family.
Years later and with nothing to hold him back, Brad signed up to join the expedition to the Mithra system, where they would install planetary shielding to save a primitive race of aliens from the coming Death Wave.
No one could have anticipated what they would find when they arrived at their destination. All they knew was that the Predecessors had detected signs of intelligent in the Mithra system, but would the aliens still be alive in 200 years when the human starship Odysseus arrived? Would they welcome the help that the humans were bringing?
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So, I made the mistake of glancing down the list of reviews of this book on Goodreads. Oh man, most of the reviews are pretty brutal! I think I may have rated this book 5 stars because I listened to it so quickly after listening to Death Wave, which was a story that seemed to be lacking in many ways (I probably rated it too generously as well, if I’m being honest with myself). As compared to Death Wave, Apes and Angels had way more going for it. I actually enjoyed getting to know the characters as they struggled with the dilema of what to do in a first-contact scenario.
Brad is the main character of this book. He is young and, dare I say, ambitious? He doesn’t exactly seek out power or authority, but he’s the kind of person who is constantly testing the boundaries of the metaphorical cage he believes he is being put in.
Of course, it all starts with a girl. In the future-setting of this story, lifespans are expanding, so that it is not uncommon to reach an age greater than 200 years (not counting any time spent in cryo-sleep). With that said, relationships between people with large age gaps is no longer frowned upon socially, so when the lead scientist, a man well-equipped with years, has his sights set on young (I want to say 40-something… I can’t remember if her age was given) Felicia, Brad unwittingly creates an adversary by capturing the heart of Felicia first.
Due to stepping on the lead scientist’s toes, he gets “banished,” for several months, to one of the other planets in the Mithra system to study the life-forms there. He doesn’t let this time go to waste though and uses it as an opportunity to learn and grow, such that he is actually chosen to make contact with alien species they have traveled so far to save.
Brad’s constant challenging of authority does get tiresome though. Yes, he is just trying to do what he believes is right, but the way in which he goes about it at times is exhausting to the reader. I was left thinking, “Come on man! Use some common sense! Don’t do that…” But then, I’m a risk-averse person who hates confrontation and conflict, so of course Brad’s attitude and methods were uncomfortable for me.
Overall, I still think this was a good book. I enjoyed the story and the idea of humans traveling 200 years through space to save an alien race they’d never met.
This series, Star Quest, is all about humans traveling into the depths of space to save aliens from a deadly wave of gamma radiation that will kill all organic life in the galaxy that doesn’t have the necessary means of protection. In Apes and Angels, the humans find themselves faced with an alien species who believes that it is their duty to die so that their young may live. They sacrifice themselves for their young out of fear of the “Skymasters.” We don’t really know who the Skymasters are, or if they even still exist, but far in the past, they destroyed the alien’s cities and forced them to live like simple farmers. They’ve been living this way for so long, that they can’t imagine any other way. The humans however, and Brad in particular, can’t stand the thought that the aliens should allow themselves to be killed out of fear for Skymasters that may not even be around anymore. Brad takes it upon himselve to try to save the alien village, whether they want to be saved or not.
What do you think about the premise of this book? The aliens allow themselves to be slaughtered out of fear of retribution. The humans, having the means to save the aliens, refuse to stand by and allow the aliens to be killed.
By the time I wrote these thoughts down, I had finised the next book, Survival, as well. In that book, you’ll see this theme reversed in way – those with the means of protecting life seem to refuse to take action.
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The Nutcracker Trilogy
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