Review: “Voyagers II: The Alien Within,” by Ben Bova

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not read the first novel in Ben Bova’s “Voyagers” series, you may want to stop reading. This review reveals its ending.

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The man who had been Keith Stoner awoke. Ben Bova offers another tour de force in “Voyagers II: The Alien Within,” his second installment in the acclaimed “Voyagers” series. In the first novel, a mysterious signal near Jupiter leads to the discovery of an alien ship. A scientist and astronaut, Stoner boards the craft. He discovers a sarcophagus containing the body of an ancient alien. Stoner remains on the ship as it swings by the earth and heads out of the solar system. He freezes to death.

Eighteen years have passed. Jo Camerata, the young grad student who fell in love with Keith Stoner in the first novel, has climbed the corporate ladder and mounted a rescue mission to save the man she loves. She is president of Vanguard Industries and has married Everett Nillson, the chairman of the board. Their company is harvesting advanced technology from the alien spacecraft. The resulting profits have made Vanguard the wealthiest corporation in the world.

In the opening pages, Keith awakens to a world that has changed drastically. Ben Bova paints a portrait of a future world which is in a tug of war between fantastic new scientific innovations and age old problems. Fusion generators have solved the energy crisis. Force fields which can shield cities from nuclear blasts have ended the standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, greed and war and poverty remain.

Bova takes Keith Stoner across the globe, from the sunny beaches of Hawaii to the cold mountains of High Asia. Through his character, the reader is introduced to an Indian woman who will do anything for her children: a glimpse of nobility and courage. Stoner journeys into the heart of Central Africa where a war rages between tribal leaders; a war fueled by weapons provided by the developed world. Through his eyes, the reader sees the horrors of war, experiences the needless killing. And then Stoner sojourns in a crowded refugee camp, where the raw masses of humanity seek hope where there is no hope. This book is an unforgettable read.

As the story progresses, the reader discovers that Keith Stoner has changed. He is not the man he used to be. As the novel’s title suggests, Stoner’s mind has been infiltrated. The alien’s presence emerges slowly, casting Stoner into an inner dialog with his strange passenger: a dispute over the nature of humanity and the character of human society. Stoner straddles two worlds, human and alien. His struggle to accommodate his mental companion becomes the perfect vehicle for Bova to raise questions about wealth and power, war and peace, self-sufficiency and love.

Ben Bova’s “Voyagers II: The Alien Within” is much more than a well crafted science fiction novel. When the story is over, the reader is left with the impression that each of us hosts an alternate presence in our psyche: an internal whisper that urges us to question the disparities of society and challenge the base instincts which lead us to destruction.

Moore later…

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