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Apes and Angels: Star Quest #2    by Ben Bova order for
Apes and Angels
by Ben Bova
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Apes and Angels follows Death Wave as the second in Ben Bova's Star Quest trilogy. In the trilogy's precursor novel, New Earth, an alien AI that informed humans of a black hole explosion sending a lethal gamma radiation wave through the Milky Way towards Earth. These Predecessors 'enlisted the help of Earth's humankind in their ongoing race against the death wave', in return for technology to shield the solar system and to build spaceships.

Now, in Apes and Angels, readers join a crew (almost twelve hundred scientists and engineers led by Adrian Kosoff) on the starship Odysseus to the red dwarf star Mithra. The mission objective is to save any intelligent life found on the planets around it. Two seem worth investigating - there are tentacled octopus-like creatures in the oceans of Mithra Alpha; and Mithra Gamma hosts pre-industrial humanoids living in scattered villages.

The story's lead is young anthropology team member Brad MacDaniels, a damaged loner who follows his own drummer. Brad falls hard for biologist Felicia Portman and it's reciprocated, despite the fact that Kosoff has his eye on her too. Kosoff's jealousy causes him to send Brad alone to study the Alpha octopods. He reluctantly accepts his exile and works hard to make sense of their language.

As he continues to demonstrate outside-the-box thinking, Brad is assigned the task of developing a plan to contact the Gamma humanoids - and then is sent down (on his own again) to execute it. When he does succeed in communicating, they tell him of the upcoming Death time; monsters from Beta; and the function of their Rememberer. His role quickly changes from anthropologist to defender

Gammans tell Brad that Sky Masters set up this death cycle in the distant past. They are sure the Masters will be back - and won't be happy over what has transpired. Have the humans just started an interstellar war? Guess we'll have to wait for book three to find out!

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