Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Fri Apr 27 19:40:43 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #49

%T Voyagers III: Star Brothers
%A Ben Bova
%I TOR Books
%D March 1990
%O paperback, US$18.95 (reviewed in galley)
%P 341
%G 0-312-93215-4

This is the concluding volume of the `Voyagers' trilogy, a turgid near-future space-opera aimed straight and successfully at the best-seller market -- and if fans needed more evidence that even mediocre genre SF is more intelligent and better written than the mainstream mega-potboilers `Voyagers' apes so successfully, they wouldn't need to look any further than this book.

In Voyagers, we got the story of the manipulative, hard-driving genius Keith Stoner; ex-astronaut turned SETI physicist who detects a radio signal that speaks to him of aliens. He battles his way through the predictable maelstrom of intrigue, politics and treachery to a meeting with the aliens' starcraft in high orbit around Earth. A melodramatic last-minute plot twist forces him to gamble...to attempt to cryo-freeze himself and await a possible rescue when his long orbit brings him back near Earth.

In Voyagers II: Star Brothers Jo Camerata, the (predictably luscious) young woman who assisted Stoner (and was used and discarded by him) matured (surprise!) into a Captain of Industry with enough megabucks to engineer his rescue and fall into his arms. He returns to Earth. But within his mind, an alien presence lurks, lending him Weird Powers with which to trash the bad guys. Is it a true friendly? Is it insidiously dangerous? Will we prow through hundreds of pages of bestseller formula prose to find out?

Now we get Voyagers III: Star Brothers. Yup, it's a friendly... and it's Stoner and his alien buddy and wifey Jo off to Save The World against the insidious machinations of a cabal that aims to Take Over using -- gasp -- nanotechnological weapons! Can They Be Stopped?

Sigh. The best face one can put on this rolling disaster is that it might persuade a few bestseller readers to take a look at some real SF. On the other hand, it might leave more believing that all SF is this mindless.

Honesty compels me to admit that (though he's never been more than a second-ranker) Bova has done much better work in the past (though not in Colony or his other would-be bestsellers). He probably knows full well that he wrote a load of what SF fans would call utter crap, and doesn't care because it outsold most serious SF by a long light-year. In fact, I suspect that if he saw this review he'd just laugh and riffle a royalty check. Well, it's his reputation.

Perhaps if he ever goes back to writing for the SF audience we might see some passable stuff from him. In the meantime, Raymond's Reviews gives the whole Voyager series (especially III) a Gold-Plated Mega-Crock Award for Conspicuous Bestellerism and Malignant Stupidity and recommends that you avoid it as you would the plague.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Fri Apr 27 19:40:43 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>