01/11/2008. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
audio CD. pub: Audio Renaissance/PanMacmillan. 12 hours. 10 CDs. Price: $44.95 (US), $55.95 (CAN) ISBN: 978-1-4272-0106-4) read by: Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, Stephen Hoye and Stefan Rudnicki .
check out websites: http://us.macmillan.com/Book.aspx?isbn=9781427201065 and www.benbova.net
Many battles have been fought in 'The Asteroid Wars', both in space and in the boardroom and the casualties are numerous. Bodies preserved by the cold of space, scattered about the Solar System, will remain for billions of years untouched with their death throes transfixed for eternity. Unless, of course, someone decides to bury them.
This is the fourth and it may be the last of Ben Bova's 'Asteroid War' series but you never know, it has been an exciting and successful run so he might just have the inclination to write another. The audio book version by MacMillan has plenty of good narrators to fulfil the many characters portrayed in 'The Aftermath'. I thought the first three books were good but this is even better.
Don't expect to see much of the old characters from the last three books. They've largely moved on, died or appear on only in minor parts. The wars are essentially over but as with any conflict nothing is ever the same, there are lots of scores to settle and there are many pieces to pick up. What Bova does is take this setting to weave an intricate story that will keep you listening until the end of the last disc.
One of the problems of reviewing a novel is that you cannot say too much about it for fear of spoiling it for other readers. This is what is called a spoiler! While it is insufficient to say this is a good book, go buy and listen or read it, saying a lot more could be detrimental especially if the book is in a series. Revealing too much about the plot of the fourth book could certainly be a dampener for poor souls just starting on the first instalment. Nevertheless, here we go...
Ceres is the largest asteroid. Despite being no more than 500 miles in diameter, positioned in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter where it's pretty cold and desolate, during the colonisation and mining of the asteroids it had become home to a thousand or more people in their rock rat habitat. Such an existence is fragile and easy prey to a psychopathic mercenary, Dorik Harbin, who has no qualms whatsoever, destroys them without mercy.
On their way to land at the habitat is the rock rat space family Zacharias; a man, his wife and their son and daughter. Their spaceship is fairly knackered and they are not financially well off. Not a good time to land, you would think, but orbital trajectory physics dictate that you cannot just do an about turn and go back. Faced with certain death for his family, Victor, the head of the household, jumps into an escape pod to try to draw away the attackers. In doing so, the ship is disabled and pushed into a wide orbit that will take them to the very cold depths of space before any chance of return. It was going to be a long journey!
Living in a tin can isn't easy especially when it malfunctions all the time and it's up to Theo, the son of the family, to save his mother and sister and steer the ship back to safety however long it takes. This is one part of the story and it's a good one, well told by the narrators. Ben Bova has lots of experience writing stories where children or teenagers use ingenuity and raw courage to solve their problems. This is no exception.
Meanwhile, Victor has been captured by a nutter and becomes her slave. The only thing that keeps him going is the thought of his family somewhere out there in space. He endures a grim existence.
Years later, the chap who was a mercenary killer has gone through a physical and mental transformation. Now half-machine and half-human, he regrets his former actions, joins the priesthood and decides to do something about all the dead bodies he left lying about the Solar System. Accompanying him on his quest is an ancient female sculptress (how does Bova think them up?) by the name of Elverda Apacheta.
Everything seems fine but yet again another element is introduced. There is ship called The Viking captained by Kao Yuan. It so happens that the ship is owned by Martin Humphries and the captain is out to kill the cyborg and the sculptress all because of the connection between them, the alien artefact and Humphries himself.
Exactly why or what the reasons are for this happy reunion would be a spoiler if revealed but sufficient to say they all meet up, including Zacharias and his family. Destiny has decreed that these once unconnected individuals converge with the product of their interaction having significant consequences for the future of mankind and the Solar System.
This is an excellent tale...one of Bova's best. It's handling by the MacMillan narrators is very precise and professional. Having listened to the first three books in the series, I can attest that 'The Aftermath' could stand alone but, as always, having knowledge of the previous instalments is always going to be a good thing in understanding 'The Asteroid War' in its entirety. This is certainly an audio book I can recommend!
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