Thoughts on “Voyagers”

Continuing with my examination of the Ben Bova works that I own, today I’ll look at “Voyagers”. And in reading this, I’m really starting to detect a pattern with his works: an intelligent and masculine hero, scientifically minded, who ends up in some sort of love triangle involving an attractive young woman, with various hurdles placed in their path by the main villain, stuffed into a plot that involves a scientific and/or environmental concern built around a premise that’s interesting itself and far more interesting than the character drama, but which often gets shunted aside for the inferior character drama.

Here, the main character is Stoner, who detects some kind of alien craft while looking for astronomical data, and this discovery builds into a somewhat interesting examination of the Cold War era politics that would be involved if something like that would actually happen. Eventually, this leads to a mission to meet it, and of course Stoner wants to go along because he’s obsessed with the craft, and he just so happens to have been an astronaut first and so qualified to do so, which is in no way any kind of contrivance. Meanwhile, his sometime assistant, Jo, is completely in love with him, but is also ambitious, and gets blackmailed into spying on him by one of the main villains, a rival professor … and also into sleeping with the professor, which causes a split between them that the book spends a lot of time trying to resolve. The additional member of the love triangle is at least potentially a Soviet scientist who despises the politics of the Cold War and so helps Stoner on a number of occasions, but that never really goes anywhere. His wife is a Soviet agent who uses a Manchurian candidate to disrupt the mission, but is discovered in the end so that the mission goes ahead.

One of the big flaws in the book is the ending. Stoner goes on the mission, finds an alien is suspended animation in it, and then because they don’t have the time to bring it back decides to freeze himself to go along with it until it returns to Earth with its orbit. This is a nonsensical decision. First, there was no need for that; the craft was supposed to come back — Stoner relies on that as an argument — and in his normal lifetime, if I’m recalling correctly, so he would have had some chance to study it anyway, and certainly could have from the data and pictures they took. Second, it also seems pointless, as there isn’t any chance of his interacting with the alien or the aliens that sent it, which would have been a good reason for him to tag along. As it stands, there is no reason for him to do so nor is there anything he could actually do there that would make it worthwhile. Third, he had just reconciled with Jo, and this pretty much ends that relationship, making the relationship even more pointless other than to have someone there to cry over him when he doesn’t return. So the ending is a pointless downer ending pretending to be a somewhat hopeful one. It’s telegraphed well, but still isn’t very satisfying.

Other than that, Bova’s villains remain of the “moustache twirling variety”, with limited motivation for their actions other than jealousy or Cold War politics. This makes them very uninteresting. They also aren’t particularly inventive villains, which means that again we start to wonder why the heroes can’t stop them.

So, as is usual for Bova, the plot and premise is interesting but the execution is weak, especially in how it focuses on the characters without building really interesting characters or character drama. The book was okay and moved well, but overall isn’t particularly interesting and is a book that I would be able to read again but feel no real desire to read again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: