Audiobook Review: Voyagers by Ben Bova

5 04 2011

Voyagers by Ben Bova

Read by Stefan Rudnicki

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Hard Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Voyagers was an interesting novel, yet, one that is hard to judge fully without seeing where Bova takes the story in future installments. 

Grade: C+

So, for my second slice of the Ben Bova pie, I decided to forgo the Grand Tour, and check out his First Contact novel Voyagers. Voyagers was a novel I wanted to check out for a while, mostly because I like First Contact novels, and I was intrigued by the question Bova himself asks, How would the world react is we received unequivocal knowledge that there are other more intelligent species in the universe? I like this approach because this isn’t the Independence Day/Battle:LA question, which is, what would happen if a superior alien force shows up bent on our destruction. Yet, this isn’t also the Start Trek question of, how would we react if some nice humanoid aliens showed up wanting to be our buddies? To me, this question is more about us, then the aliens, how would we as a people be changed just by the mere knowledge of extraterrestrial life? This is something I find interesting. So, for that reason, I chose to take on Voyagers.

So, I’m going to start with the negatives. I definitely had some moments of disappointment in this novel.  The major disappointment is I felt there was a failure to totally explore the underlying question. In Voyagers, Bova focuses mostly on a small group of scientist, and how this potential knowledge of ETI affected them. These scientists are tapped by their countries as representatives in an international action group working of the possible discovery of an Alien Space Craft near Jupiter. While we get some levels of character development, what we have mostly is a look at the politics involved, internationally, nationally, institutionally and sexually. While the interactions and motivations are fascinating, they are definitely on the micro scale, and not the macro Scale. Bova does examine a limited amount of world change, but most of it is told in small asides, seen in micro-scenes, news programs, book quotes, and memorandum. Despite my disappointment, I believe there are reasons Bova had to tackle the story from this angle, first off, the book was written in the height of the Cold War, and no story of International Import can be written outside of that political context. Secondly, this is the first in a series, and I venture to guess we will be seeing more evidence of mass social change as the series progresses. Now, my small disappointments in no way diminished this novel as both entertainment and a thought process. As a Hard Science Fiction novel, there is a lot of talk, and not a ton of action, but if that is what you are looking for, Voyager works well.

Stefan Rudnicki handles the majority of the narration for Voyagers. As always, he handles the international cast with skill. Rudnicki is the perfect narrator for Hard Science Fiction because of his ability to find a natural rhythm even in lengthy expositions and info dumps. To be perfectly honest, this is the type of book that I probably would never have made it through as a reader, but with a talented narrator, the experience was enjoyable. For small parts throughout the novel, a female narrator handles small mini-scenes and news reports. Personally, I don’t think she added much to the reading, and Rudnicki would have been perfectly capable of handling those moments. Voyagers was an interesting novel, yet, one that is hard to judge fully without seeing where Bova takes the story in future installments. 

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