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Colony
Ben Bova
Avon EOS Books, 499 pages

Colony
Ben Bova
Ben Bova received his doctorate in education in 1996 from California Coast University, a master of arts degree in communications from the State University of New York at Albany (1987) and a bachelor's degree in journalism from Temple University, Philadelphia (1954). Bova has taught science fiction at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he has also directed film courses. He was editorial director of OMNI magazine and, earlier, editor of Analog magazine. He has received Hugos for Best Professional Editor 6 times. His 1994 short story, "Inspiration," was nominated for the SFWA's Nebula Award.

Ben Bova Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Immortality
SF Site Review: Moonwar
SF Site Review: Moonrise

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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Colony is a good science fiction novel. It moves well, the characters are solid and believable, and it holds its own as a nice piece of "hard" science fiction. Exactly what you'd expect from Ben Bova, a former editor of Analog. He's been around for a long time and knows how to do this sort of thing really well.

The only real problem with it is that it's a bit dated in some respects and a bit commonplace in others. Bova's 21st century has the Russian Communists still a world power, and so on. (That's forgivable -- after all, who knew?) Pollution is choking the environment while multinational corporations plunder the helpless population -- which is increasing beyond the capacity of the earth to sustain it.

At the time of its original publication, 1978, Colony was probably more interesting as a piece of speculative fiction than it is now. A lot of the action takes place inside an O'Neill space colony. Bova does the typical accomplished SF writer's job of describing the surroundings, and although he's too good at what he does to be at all obtrusive about it, by now the setting reads a bit old hat. The end result is, Colony reads a little like the old film Destination: Moon plays to a modern audience. Fun, but it didn't happen that way.

Again, I don't mean to take anything away from the book. I enjoyed it all the way through. The main character, David Adams, is ostensibly the world's first test-tube baby, fertilized in vitro and raised in a creche-like situation aboard the unimaginatively named Colony One. The novel details David's gradual radicalization at the hands of the beautiful Bahjat, his terrorist lover, and the eventual re-purposing of the space colony as a stepping stone to the asteroids, and presumably, the stars, rather than the orbital-gated community its wealthy World Government builders intended.

The economic and political stuff reads a little naïvely, but there's enough action to keep the story going, and the characters are enjoyable if somewhat stereotyped in terms of role models and political persuasions. The World Government dudes are all wealthy, selfish bastards quick to exploit situations and people to their own ends. David Adams is a well-meaning doofus, the archetypal Man Who Learns Better. Bahjat is the terrorist with a heart of gold. And so on. There really aren't any surprises on that end. And the plot is pretty straightforward, too. This isn't cutting-edge SF, at least, not any more. What it is, is a perfect example of how to write a good, solid, entertaining novel of ideas with strong political ties to the world we know. It isn't Ben Bova's fault that the scenario he spins was not played out as he predicted. That happens in SF all the time, as we know, especially with near-future stuff like this.

Colony isn't classic in the sense of 1984 or even The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but that shouldn't dissuade anyone looking for a good, undemanding story populated with interesting characters.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at http://www.w3pg.com/jazzpolice.


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