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Death Wave
by Ben Bova
Tor, $25.99, 411pp
Published: November 2015

Ben Bova has almost always delivered solid science fiction stories over his long career.  And this one is no different.  It is a sequel to New Earth which I have not read.  In the first book, Jordan Kell led a space mission and found an ancient alien civilization.  They also found a New Earth planet, populated by humans who had been taken from Earth.

In this book, Jordan has returned to Earth with his alien (although human) wife.  They were sent with a message for the people of Earth.  There is a deadly wave of radiation from an explosion in the heart of the Milky Way that is headed for Earth, destroying all life in its path.  It won’t reach Earth for another two thousand years and the denizens of New Earth have sent technology to save us.  But they want and need more from us.  They need us to save all the other intelligent creatures in the path of the death wave.

But that’s a hard sell to the World Council – nominally an elected team but, in reality, run tightly by one person; one person skating dangerously close to being a tyrant.  One person who speaks for all of Earth and she is not convinced that the aliens don’t have a dark agenda.  She does everything in her power, which is considerable, to imprison both Jordan and his wife, Aditi; and to exploit Aditi’s advanced technology.  The irony is that Aditi’s people are willing to share almost everything with no strings attached.  Unfortunately, the Chairperson of the World Council, Anita Halleck, is unable to believe their good intentions; as she has none, herself.  The one thing they aren’t quite ready to share is faster-than-light communications; a technology that would extend Anita’s power beyond Earth into the independent systems of the Moon and Saturn.  Unfortunately for her, both Jordan and Aditi have resources unknown to her which makes keeping them imprisoned and apart quite difficult to maintain.  And Jordan and Aditi are quite determined to take their message to all of Earth, the Moon and Saturn; and to find the resources to rescue the many intelligent beings who face death – in spite of Anita’s efforts.

This was a nice little story but it was not epic.  I found it to be a little too gentle.  I would have liked to have more action, more on the edge, more suspense…just more.  The characters were a bit lackluster to me; fully realized but just not that exciting.  Even the villain just wasn’t that scary.  And the climax came and went before I realized it.  It disappoints me to say that I just don’t recommend it.   ~~  Catherine Book

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