Orion by Ben Bova

Anthony G Williams

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I haven't read much by this author, but have previously thought of him as concentrating on hard SF. I was therefore surprised by the fact that Orion (in my opinion, at any rate, despite later plot twists) falls into the fantasy camp.

The story begins in the present day and is told in the first person, by a man called Orion. He has some unusual abilities (for reasons which he doesn't understand) and finds himself involved in a titanic struggle between two apparently all-powerful men, Ormazd and Ahriman (the names of two gods in Zoroastrianism who represent good and evil respectively). He is also strongly drawn to Anya, a woman who is connected in some way with Ormazd. Orion is told that Ahriman intends to destroy humanity and that his role is to prevent this. In the attempt to carry out his task, Orion seems to die – only to find himself transported back in time, facing the same enemy yet again. This pattern is repeated, Orion going steadily further back in time towards the prehistoric war which caused Ahriman's hatred of humanity. There he discovers that all was not what it seemed and he has a difficult choice to make.

The cover of my edition has glowing references from Isaac Asimov and Spider Robinson, but I have to say I was rather less impressed. The writing style reminded me far more of a typical 1950s or even pre-WW2 SF novel, rather than a product of the 1980s. It doesn't get off to a good start, the first page being an infodump in which Orion baldly spells out his unusual abilities (clearly Bova doesn't have much time for the "show don't tell" orthodoxy). It does get better as the story develops, and the plot was intriguing enough for me to read through to the end, but I found it difficult to empathise with Orion. His character remains underdeveloped, and it's hard to care much about what happens to people who keep dying and being reborn (all of the "how will they survive this?" tension gets dissipated) unless they are much more strongly written than this.

(An extract from my SFF blog)
 

antnee

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Feb 6, 2009
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What's wrong with people? Not only do I think that this is Ben Bovas best series, I think it's one of the greatest epic sci-fi - fantasy series ever, way better than that Enders Game, Dune, or Foundation BS. I'd put the Orion series right next to all my other favorites - The dark tower, Imajica, dean koontz frankenstein, to name the best ones.... I absolutely don't understand why people can't enjoy epic, well-written, mind-bending stories like Orion - actually, there is nothing like Orion. That's why it's so good, it's completely original. Anyway, no offense to anyone, but that's my opinion.
 

Anthony G Williams

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Do not make the juvenile error of assuming that anyone who disagrees with your opinion must be "wrong".

You are entitled to your opinion, but it has no more validity than just that - being your opinion. The fact that the other books you mention have all being wildly successful and critically acclaimed, which Orion has not, should give you pause for thought.

As a matter of interest the reading group which I belong to, and which took Orion as their monthly book, were deeply unimpressed - some didn't even finish it.
 

antnee

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I didn't mean to say that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. I love this series, but after what you said about it I went and reread Orion, and, honestly, it is cheezy and the characters aren't believable sometimes. I still like it, but the sequels are a LOT better. Especially the second book, Vengeance of Orion, where Bova puts Orion at the task of sacking Troy, and then toppling the walls of Jericho, which I thought was neat.
 

Omphalos

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The only thing by this author that I can stand is Mars, and even that thing pushes it a bit far. Ive never read this one, Anthony, but if my prejudices are my guide, I cannot see Bova doing much to impress with psi powers. I think that he has enough trouble with scientific reality, which is his forte by profession. It seems to me that he is just too wrapped up in "The Right Stuff" attitude, and stretches to make his characters heroic. In a way he comes off sounding really idealistic because of that.
 
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