By Ben Bova
Published by Dove Audio
Read by Theodore Bikel
I’m of mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, Ben Bova is one of the great masters of science fiction and, in truth, I think this is a pretty good story, but on the other, I kept feeling like I was caught in an endless loop waiting for the real action until near the end of the book. I think part of the problem is that it is too realistic. I know that ought not to be a complaint and I think avid readers of military SF will enjoy this one, but as I said, I really wanted more out of the story.
After the nuclear destruction of Jerusalem and much of the rest of the Middle East, the International Peacekeeping Force is established. A different approach toward preventing nuclear wars; instead of preventing the manufacture and storing of nuclear devices, it is their job to prevent the launching of such weapons. You want a large arsenal of the things, fine, just don’t use them. At first I thought this seemed a bit simplistic, but it is a fascinatingly different way to handle the problem since it is the job of the IPF to monitor all such bombs via their satellite network and to prevent their usage. I’m still not sure that would work and to an extent, maybe it didn’t even in this book.
There are factions that do not trust the IPF, seeing it as an arm of the USA and Russia (Soviet Union?) meant to maintain a monopoly on nukes and to keep the 3rd World nation firmly under their feet. There are also factions who see that the IPF is stopping the super powers from doing just that and the IPF is caught in between them. And then we have the terrorist who nuked Jerusalem (and still has six nukes of his own) and the fanatic survivor determined to bring him down as revenge for the death of his family. And throughout we have the brave determined members of the IPF, someof whom start out opposed to the group.
It’s a twisty-turning sort of story that keeps going back and forth. My complaint? It seemed to me that the story did not go far enough into the future history. It was written within a framework of a historian’s work (actually it reminded me too often of those 18th and 19th Century novels in which the chapter titles tell you everything that is about to happen in that the historian prefacing each chapter said a bit too much about what was about to happen in the story. Ben Bova, however is not the only author to annoy me with that habit. Bob Aspirin did the same thing only far more specifically in the first of the Phoole’s Company books (actually he might have done that in all of them, but I only read the first one)).
But, you know, I have taken a peak at the reviews others have written about this book and most were quite positive, so maybe I’m wrong (What? Again?”) or, more likely, this one just was not to my taste. In Mister Bova’s favor I think this is a well-crafted tale and one that is a fast reader. This is a pleasant read for an afternoon or a weekend, so if SF set in a military venue is your cup of tea, check it out.
I was amazed to hear that Theodore Bikel had read this story. I certainly had not known the acclaimed actor and musician had narrated audio books and even if I had considered it, I might have guessed he did a reading of Sholom Aleichem’s works, but he was certainly NOT miscast as the reader of this story. In fact now that I think about it, why should his reading of an SF novel be a surprise to me? Didn’t he play Worf’s adoptive Dad on Star Trek: The Next Generation?
Well, I must say listening to him read was a delightful experience, so even if I was wishy washy about the story itself, Bikel’s reading in his rich tones and accents is well worth your time.
So, we have a story that military enthusiasts ought to enjoy with an excellent reader to listen to. One could do a lot worse!