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Death Wave (Star Quest Trilogy) by Ben Bova
Cover Artist: John Harris
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765379504
Date: 17 November 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In Death Wave, SF author Ben Bova focuses on the return of a team of astronauts from a long mission to an alien planet. They have much news to share, including lots of new technology and a huge gamma energy wave emanating from the center of the galaxy and headed toward Earth.

Jordan Kell arrives back to Earth after a trip to a planet called New Earth that is eight light years away. On planet New Earth, Kell and his group of astronauts found a completely Earth-like society, including humans, set up by alien intelligent machines. The humans on planet New Earth were developed by the same intelligent aliens traveling to Earth and getting human DNA. Arriving with Kell are two of the scientists from the original mission, and his human wife from planet New Earth. This creates quite a stir on Earth, because nobody knows what to expect from the alien woman.

The big news that Kell brings back from planet New Earth is that a huge gamma energy wave has emanated from the center of the galaxy and is headed toward Earth, and will completely wipe out all life on Earth. The energy wave, or death wave, will not reach Earth for 2000 years, but several intelligent species on other planets will be destroyed along the way. The intelligent machines that built planet New Earth wanted to attract explorers from Earth and share the news of the gamma energy wave, plus share the existence of the other intelligent species in the universe that will also be destroyed before the wave reaches Earth.

Kell and his group's journey home required 80 years in cryogenic suspension, but of course the information of the discoveries traveled to Earth at the speed of light, so the people of Earth were already aware of the great discoveries the team of researchers found on planet New Earth long before their return.

Jordan's motives upon returning to Earth are pretty simple. He wants to share the news of the gamma wave and convince the citizens of Earth to build spacecrafts to rescue the intelligent species that will be destroyed before the wave reaches Earth. The other alien species are intelligent, but not as technologically advanced as people on Earth, so they are unable to detect the danger and will be completely destroyed without help. But 2000 years is a long time, and the people on Earth are more worried about more-immediate threats, such as global warming and overpopulation.

Anita Halek, the leader of the World Council which is the governing body of Earth, is completely different than Kell. She is power hungry, and she sees Kell and his wife as a threat. Immediately upon their return, she places them under a tight security guard. Her justification to Kell is that many people on Earth are curious, and even scared, of his alien wife and they must be under security to remain safe.

Part of Halek's reasoning is legitimate, but she also wants to keep the couple separated from the media so that Kell does not gain popularity, get elected to the World Council and threaten her position as leader. Kell figures this out quickly, but he has a great trick up his sleeve through his wife Aditi. After they arrive on Earth, he hears Aditi communicating with her planet in relatively real time, only one hour of transmission time over the eight light years of distance. Aditi reveals that the aliens on planet New Earth have developed faster-than-light communication, which is a great boon to communication throughout the galaxy, but only information can travel faster than the speed of light, not matter. All the aliens on planet New Earth have a communicator implanted in their minds during gestation that allows them to communicate this way.

Early in the media battle between Kell and Halek, Aditi is able to assist her husband to override all the media stations on Earth to allow Kell to broadcast to all the citizens of Earth, and to present his story about the upcoming gamma wave including his desire to have Earth build spaceships to go and rescue the other intelligent species.

The rest of the novel is Kell working to spread his message, and Halek and her thugs trying to stop him. Aditi and the citizens of planet New Earth are more than willing to share the faster-than-light communication technology with the people of Earth, as they have been with all their other advanced technologies, and Aditi spends a great deal of the rest of the story helping the scientists develop this capability.

My major reaction to Death Wave aside from the plot is that the world council, especially Halek, is just as petty, conniving, and backstabbing as we are today. Death Wave takes place in the 23rd century, and our world has advanced a great bit technologically, and only a little bit politically. They do have a world government, so countries are no longer fighting amongst themselves, but the political scuffles are still pretty bad. The majority of Death Wave is the political scuffle between Halek and Kell.

Additionally, one of the advanced technologies creeps me out quite a bit. Now instead of prisons, people are put in cryogenic suspension, or frozen, because it is significantly cheaper. Petty crime has been pretty much wiped out, but serious crimes are looked upon by society as mental defects that can be corrected by medication, and people are frozen until these cures can be found. Well, that is pretty much never, and nobody "goes to the freezers" with any intention of ever getting out.

Death Wave is a sequel to the novel New Earth, also by Ben Bova. Knowledge of the previous novel is not required as all the salient details necessary to understand Death Wave are covered in the first few chapters.

I highly recommend both novels and I can't wait to read the next in the series.

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