Review of THE AFTERMATH by Ben Bova (see his website)
BOOK FOUR OF THE ASTEROID WARS
Tor, August 2007
In a vicious attack, mercenary Dorik Harbin destroys a major human habitat, then turns his weapons on an ore hauler, sending its captain in one direction and his family on a long eliptical orbit through space. Captain Victor Zacharias is soon rescued, but his efforts to track his family down are stopped--no one believes they could have survived. Meanwhile, his wife and two children attempt to survive a multiyear journey through the asteroid belt and even into Jupiter's orbit.
An alien artifact wakes mercenary Harbin to what he's done and he attempts a form of restitution, becoming a priest and scouring the asteroid belt for the bodies of mercenaries killed in the war. Accompanying him is sculptor Elverda Apacheta, who's also been transformed by the artifact. Unfortunately for the two of them, space tycoon Martin Humphries has decided that all evidence of the alien artifact, most especially Harbin (who now goes as Dorn) and Elverda must be eliminated. Which brings in mercenary Kao Yuan--in charge of a small fleet tracking Dorn and Elverda. Finally, the end of the asteroid wars has created a business salvaging the many ships destroyed during the conflict. Some of the ships conducting salvage operations aren't too concerned about whether the ships they find really are unoccupied--they're happy to take care of that, by force if necessary.
Author Ben Bova (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Bova) weaves together these plot elements into a story that spans the asteroid belt and multiple years, as well as tying up story lines created in the earlier novels in this series. By picking Theo Zacharias (teenage son of Victor) as one of his protagonists, Bova creates a story line that will remind SF fans of some of the early Heinlein space opera novels, although Bova also links in more adult issues (including rape and murder).
Bova's near-future apocalyptic view of human life on eart serves as a warning to readers who'll heed it, but in this novel, he appropriately relegates social issues to the background. Bova's strong point has never been his characterization, but in THE AFTERMATH, he does develop several interesting characters--characters with a bit of complexity to them. I especially liked Dorn/Harbin.
THE AFTERMATH is the fourth book in THE ASTEROID WARS series but the earlier novels really aren't necessary for an appreciation of this superior work. For me, this is the best book in the series.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.