I’ve never been a fan of Ben Bova’s writing finding it to be a little clunky and too abrupt and oddly put together, often the sort of thing that comes from excessive overediting. Ben Bova’s The Aftermath suffers from the same problem on a larger scale as it tries to connect a number of intersecting storylines and characters over a period of years and does it with graceless abruptness.
But The Aftermath does have a good story at the center of it, that of Victor, his son Theo, wife Pauline and daughter Angie, living together on the bulky decaying ore carrier Syracuse, which is attacked when they witness the destruction of the Ceres miners colony, an attack that leaves Victor safe but penniless and alone and his family on a distant course away from Ceres and with a ship running low on fuel. It’s not original or epic, but it has a great deal of potential and is a throwback to the sort of Science Fiction novel that often used to be written. Unfortunately Ben Bova saddles the narrative with additional stories involving a mysterious alien artifact, Humphries Stellar Systems assassins, and one of the most annoying characters in any novel in some time, Dorik Harbin or Dom.
Dom sets in motion the events in the novel as Dorik Harbin, a drug crazed space mercenary who attacks the colony and the Syracuse. This is actually a high point for him in the novel as he spends the rest of it as a whiny cybernetic pacifist priest who has read Gandhi and is constantly trying to commit suicide and being captured, in between wandering uselessly through the narrative, complaining about how much pain he’s in, picking up dead bodies in space and annoying Victor and his family and everyone he encounters with warnings about the futility of violence, even as they’re trying to save themselves from being murdered. By the time Dom has finished rampaging through the novel, the story has been thoroughly ruined in the service of delivering yet another tired lecture about pacifism and non-violence. Another story thread involving the Captain chasing after Dom goes equally nowhere as Alex Humphries, the son or clone of Martin Humphries, decides along with the Captain to retire and devote himself to making the world a better place.
There is a good story lurking inside The Aftermath involving Theo guiding his parent’s ship back home as Victor does his best to get to them, unfortunately it’s joined at the hip with a terrible story involving Dom and the alien artifact and how we can all learn to be nicer people. If you can imagine a refreshing cup of Coke in which someone pours a whole beaker of sugar, you have a good idea of how Ben Bova ruined his own novel. The overly compressed and abrupt nature of The Aftermath along with the whole alien artifact story and Dom may be a carryover from the previous books of The Asteroid Wars, which i never read, but it’s little excuse for ruining a good story, with a lot of bad cliches.