Colony, by Ben Bova
July, 1978 Pocket Books
As a science fiction-reading kid in the ‘80s, I knew Ben Bova’s name but never read any of his books; he was one of those wildly prolific authors and I had no idea where to start. Also it was my impression he was a “hard science” author, ie of the type who went more for technical minutiae than the world-building escapism I usually want from sci-fi. But then last year I came across this book on the clearance shelf of a Half Price Books store; the typically-awesome Boris Valejo cover grabbed my attention, and the back cover (below) only strengthened the hold.
Indeed, here was sci-fi just as I love it: from the ‘70s, set in a future that is now in the past, filled with the space-faring, mind-expanding optimism of the era. I then checked the first-page preview, which proclaimed the novel “A bold, sweeping saga of one man against the world,” with the hero referred to as an “Adonis.” I thumbed through the book: thick as a doorstop, 470 pages of small, dense print. My quick appraisal was that it was along the lines of John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar, only with more of a “bestselling fiction” approach than an “experimental” one. In fact, I very much got the impression that what I had in my hands was what I had been long seeking: a science fiction novel told in that ‘70s “blockbuster” style I so love, with all the requisite sex and drugs the era demanded. And the suckers only wanted two bucks for it! This was another of those Cindy On Fire moments; I was on the way to the checkout line within two minutes of discovering the book.
As usual though it took me a while to get around to actually reading it; despite my initial excitement I put the book aside and took almost a year to start it. But when on page 14 I came to a part where a British beauty with a “full, ripe kind of figure” was about to work herself over with a vibrator, on her first night on a massive space colony orbiting the Earth, I knew I’d found the “sci-fi meets trashy ‘70s popular fiction” novel I’d been seeking for years. Now to be clear, the vibrator in question was really a bathroom fixture that used “sonic vibrations” for cleaning, water conservation being important to the space colony, but why split hairs. I barrelled on through the novel and soon realized that it didn’t just capture that groovy ‘70s sci-fi vibe I so love (complete with jumpsuits and “contoured chairs” and all those other swank details), but that it was a great novel to boot, and that Ben Bova had clearly put his heart and soul into it. This was one of those instances like Boy Wonder, where I read the novel and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t a bestseller in its day, why it was consigned to oblivion.
My only conclusion is that Colony was a paperback original, and this hampered its success. I personally prefer PBOs to hardcovers, but at the same I was puzzled why there was only a PBO for Colony. Bova has always seemed to me a “hardcover author,” and indeed it seems that the vast majority of his novels were published first in that format before getting paperback editions. And yet Colony was not. I can only assume that this was due to the energy crisis of the time; per Michael Newton in How To Write Action-Adventure Novels, publishers were very affected by the energy crisis, cancelling entire series and re-jiggering their publication schedules. I’m guessing, with absolutely no basis, that Colony would’ve come out in hardcover otherwise. And the hell of it is, without that hardcover edition and the ensuing industry coverage, Colony appears to have slipped through the cracks. Because as it turns out, Colony was one of the best books I’ve read in years, and certainly gave me everything I hoped for.
That first page didn’t lie; this is indeed a sweeping saga, encompassing a huge cast of characters and occurring over several months of the “future year” of 2008. Now one thing the back cover didn’t mention, and which I only learned later, was that Colony was a sort-of sequel to an earlier Boval novel, Millennium (1976). Which itself was a sequel to Bova’s later Kinsman (1983, but comprised of short stories originally published in the ‘70s). I have not read either of those books, but at no point in Colony did I feel like I was missing out on anything. It appears that those two novels are more connected to each other than Colony is connected to either of them: Colony merely occurs in the same “world” as Millennium and Kinsman, with the only recurring characters being very minor ones in Colony. I wouldn’t even say that reading those two books would enrich the experience of reading Colony, as neither book is mentioned, and the only recurring bit here comes from Millennium, in that there’s a colony on the moon that’s now its own independent nation, and also that there’s a World Government that unites all the nations on the Earth.
So yes, Colony takes place in a year that’s now 14 years past, but in no way does that detract from the reading experience. And besides, I’m not one who judges a sci-fi novel by what it got “right” or not. But to be clear, Colony is of a piece with other sci-fi novels of its day in that it is optimistic about the future of space exploration; wildly optimistic, in fact. I personally think it’s so cool that an author could publish a novel in 1978 that took place a mere thirty years in the future and fill it with moon colonies, space stations, orbiting colonies, and routine travel to and from all these places. Thirty years! But then, it only took ten years to get to the moon during the Space Race, so no doubt it only seemed logical at the time that expanded space travel would follow just as quickly.
I’ve always looked at science fiction more as a reflection of the era in which it was written, and in that area too Colony is very ‘70s. Not just in its “bestselling fiction” approach, but also in the topics it focuses on. Overpopulation is a big one, as is weather control. But the space colony stuff is in-line with the speculations of the time. Many years ago I was really into the books of Robert Anton Wilson, and through him I learned about the “SMIILE” concept of Timothy Leary as well as the space colonies envisioned by Gerard O’Neil. In the mid to late ‘70s, it seemed to be commonly accepted among such visionairies that man would soon begin leaving the planet, to live in space. Leary’s stuff (for a project he never completed) in particular was about expanding consciousness as the next step on the path to outer space life. Back then the goal was leaving the Earth. Today it’s saving the Earth.
So Bova, like a true sci-fi visionary of his day, projects a future that is really just the 1970s with a greatly expanded space program and a world government. The sentiments of the characters who live in this world are much more “1970s” than any people who lived in the actual 2008, and in this regard Colony is similar to another “future 70s” work, The Savage Report. But this isn’t a complaint. I much prefer these futures that didn’t happen to the one we actually got. I mean, if only the real 2008 had a space station where zero-g sex was one of the favorite activities of vacationers, not to mention an orbiting space colony filled with women in form-fitting jumpsuits. And Bova does get some stuff correct – he predicts video teleconferencing, which has become standard now in the era of Covid. Also the internet and quick digital transfers of money factor into the book, and are treated as commonly as such things are today.
But Bova’s biggest miss is that in his projected future the left-leaning World Government is at odds with the multinational corporations. While the World Government wants global unification, a socialist utopia of equity in which world peace and harmony is maintained at the expense of independence, the multinationals want to practice pure capitalism, the poor and the planet itself be damned. This is pure Ayn Rand, of course, but how could Bova or Rand or any of the sci-fi visionaries of the day have predicted that in the real future the billionaires would be aligned with a leftist new world order? In the era of “get woke, go broke,” corporations no longer make a secret of their ideology. Even charity organizations have gone down the self-destructive path of wokeism.
But this “World Government vs the multinationals” setup comprises the central plot of Colony. Certainly in Bova’s day it made sense; it would be easy to imagine the cigar-chomping billionaires of the 1970s united against the capital-diminishing aims of a socialist World Government. This though is just another indication of what I like about sci-fi; it takes contemporary reality and exposits on what the ensuing world might be like in a few years, decades, or centuries. And as mentioned Bova’s big concern is the growing population, per Stand On Zanzibar and so many other books of the era. Bova has the global population at near 8 billion in his 2008, which is pretty much where we are now. However he also has the black population of the US (or what was formerly the US) at 80%, just a tad off from the 13% of the actual 2008.
I mention race because one of the many subplots Bova works into Colony is a race war, one that goes hand-in-hand with the people’s movement that is united against the World Government. That 80% figure is actually delivered by one of the black terrorists, a hulking mass of muscle named Leo who was once a pro footballer, but who now has carved out his own Escape From New York-esque fiefdom in Manhattan. Sadly, one of Bova’s biggest successes on the prediction front is that he envisions a 9/11 sort of attack on New York, late in the novel, but this one is carried out by an army of black terrorists who declare war on the “white asses.” One curious tidbit Bova introduces – one that would certainly trigger sensitive readers of today – is that the darker one’s skin is, the higher his authority is in the black resistance; Leo, we’re informed, regularly takes drugs to ensure his skin stays as dark as possible. He is in fact the only character who indulges in that ‘70s sci-fi mainstay: weird drugs. But Leo’s are some sort of super-steroids that affect his metabolism and keep him in hulking shape; without them, as we eventually learn, he’ll literally fall apart.
But this too is more of a indication of Bova’s own time than our own; this 2008 is still run by men, however we are told that the US representative for the former US in the World Government is a black man, and obviously the World Government reps from the various former countries are not all white. But there are no women in positions of power, something that occurs to the otherwise-progressive head of the World Government, the 80-something year old De Paolo. One of the few characters returning from Millennium (which took place 9 years before this novel), De Paolo heads up the World Government from the HQ in Messina, Sicily(!), a loyal “Ethiopian” at his side. This bit, of the ancient leader of the world who confides solely in his Ethiopian aide, so mirrors the relationship of Premiere Vassily (the ancient ruler of his world) and Rahallah (Vassily’s Ethiopian aide) in the Doomsday Warrior series that I don’t think it could be a coincidence; I think Ryder Syvertsen certainly read Colony.
So this is the world of Colony: The World Government controls the planet, while the independent nation of Selene is built beneath the surface of the moon (its formation chronicled in Millennium). Meanwhile there is Space Station Alpha, which acts as a waystation between the Earth and the moon, and most notably there is also Island One, a massive orbiting colony in which ten thousand people live. Bova clearly seems to be aligned with the World Government; his world is the one we seem to be lurching toward, in which gas-guzzling cars and other pollutants have been replaced, and all energy on the Earth is derived from solar energy beamed down by Island One. The colony is essential to the planet’s survival, but only the rich and the elite live up there in a green wonderland of open spaces with spectacular cosmic views from various massive windows; this much dismays the poor, starving people eking out a miserable existence on the overpopulated Earth.
Things are becoming increasingly bad on Earth, with mass starvation and suffering and a huge disparity between the poor and the super-rich CEOs of the multinationals. Meanwhile the People’s Revolutionary Underground (PRU) is fighting against the World Government all across the globe; there’s also “El Liberator,” a Castro-esque revolutionary who is causing lots of trouble in Argentina. Curiously, all these revolutionary movements appear to be socialist, as is the World Government itself; I mean, socialists versus socialists – everyone’s a loser. Another interesting thing is that in Bova’s 2008 the Middle East has not been consumed by radical fundamentalism, and in fact Baghdad is what amounts to a tourist trap, where reps from the World Government work to recreate the wonders of the ancient world. The main terrorists of the PRU we meet in Colony are from the Middle East, however…and they’re a helluva lot less violent than the ones we got in reality. Several times Hamoud, or “Tiger,” the leader of the Iraqi section of the PRU, states that “suicide missions are stupid” and he and his fellow terrorists go out of their way not to get themselves killed…as well as not to kill any of their victims.
Befitting the bestseller fiction approach, one man will be able to fix all the world’s problems: David Abrams, that “Adonis” mentioned on the first-page preview. David is a rather special character; apparently in his early to mid 20s, a good-looking blond-haired guy with a lean muscular build and etc. He is also the first “test tube baby,” grown and born on Island One, outside the legal domain of the Earth. This means that the Island One scientists, free to chase their every whim, made David a sort of super-being. He’s impervious to most all diseases, with an immune system that can quickly shake off viruses that would kill ordinary people. He’s also incredibly quick thinking and proficient at most forms of self-defense. In a bit that predicts cyberpunk, he also has a computer link wired into him, so that by tapping a molar with his tongue he can access computers and retrieve data which is “whispered” to him via “the microscopic receiver implanted behind his ear.” What I most appreciated though is that Bova shows us all this instead of just telling us about it; David’s gifts are demonstrated through his actions and quick thoughts, and Bova doesn’t beat us over the head reminding us that he was designed to be gifted.
David Adams (note the Biblical connotations of the name) is the central character of Colony, and he’s a very memorable one. His origin is a bit of a mystery; his father is unknown, and his mother, one of the designers of Island One, died before David was born, and thus the fetus was removed and kept alive, those scientists going to work on all their genetic improvements. David has spent his entire life on Island One, and the crux of the novel concerns his learning of the plight of the Earth, and how Island One is central to the planet’s survival. I kept wondering why Bova titled the novel “Colony” instead of “Island One,” as the latter name is used much more often in the text. It is a massive space colony of the type envisioned by Gerard O’Neil in The High Frontier (1977), two “cylinders” that could easily hold at least a million people. But, as roving young British reporter Evelyn Hall soon learns, the second cylinder is completely empty: a flora-rich paradise that goes on as far as the eye can see, while people are running out of room down on Earth.
The multinationals own Island One, though, in particular the few men who make up the Board. Chief among them is T. Hunter Garrison, Texas-based codger and all around old-fashioned billionaire type, of the kind seen in the trashy paperbacks of the day. Completely without conscience, devoted to money and power; Garrison is in his way one of the villains of the piece, particularly given how he is the main architect of the race war. As the novel progresses, we see that the Board intends to forment total civil war on the planet, secretly backing the PRU and other rebels in their war against the World Government. And while the planet is in flames, the Board will ride it out in that empty cylinder on Island One – which, of course, has been designed for them alone. Another of the board members is Sheihk Al-Hashimi of Iraq, who also secretly funds the PRU.
What Al-Hashimi does not know (but the reader soon does) is that his beautiful daughter Bahjat is actually the infamous PRU leader Scheherazade. In fact, Bahjat is the true ruler of the Middle Eastern wing of the PRU, as Hamoud is devoted to her and does what she says, even though he pretends he alone is in power. Again though, we must not view Bahjat with modern eyes: she is not the suicidal and radical Islamic terrorist of the ISIS type. But then, neither is Hamoud and the others, though we are often told how “cruel” Hamoud is. These people rarely kill in their objectives, and Bahjat and Hamoud will carry out a few strikes in the course of Colony, either knocking out or merely holding their victims captive. In this regard they are much more comparable to the terrorists of Bova’s era than to the ones of today. The PRU indeed is presented as having a noble purpose; Bova is properly unbiased in his narrative, so that, when focusing on each group, he does not make them come off as good or bad. Even Garrison is given a bit of a heroic nature, late in the novel. Only Hamoud is presented as being truly evil, but again for the most part we are only told of this.
This is a big novel, a sweeping epic, and like any epic there are many, many memorable sequences in it. What I really appreciated was how Bova had this large canvas of seemingly-unrelated characters, and then gradually brought them together. Being the star of the piece, David is usually the person who meets them, often in inventive ways. His meeting of Bahjat, for example – which we know is bound to happen given the first-page preview – is cleverly carried out in unexpected fashion. Through Beverly (whom David, per the trash fiction approach, beds early in the book) David learns of the dire plight of the Earth, and vows to get down there. However Dr. Cyrus Cobb, elderly founder and now head honcho of Island One (my assumption was he was based on Dr. Gerard O’Neil), refuses to let David go. After all, Cobb explains, David is technically owned by the Board of Directors. Cobb is another memorable character in a novel stuffed with them, a visionary in line with O’Neill and Leary and those other ‘70s visionaries, and he’s raised David as the son he never had.
But as mentioned our hero is made of sterner stuff than common men, thus David concocts a scheme to get off Island One. This is a great sequence, involving David constructing a “womb” for himself to be placed on the hull of one of the ferries that go to the moon, with David in a self-induced sleep to conserve oxygen and heat. (The self-induced sleep is very ‘70s in vibe, involving a theta-level program David downloads via his comptuer linkup.) Bova doesn’t spend much time on the moon, but this part might be meaningful for those who read Millennium, at least in that we see how the colony of Selene has fared in the near-decade since that book. But ultimately David’s only on the moon for a few pages. There’s a sequence here that I found reminiscent of one in Moon Zero Two, where David commandeers a buggy and drives it solo across the harsh terrain, his oxygen levels running dangerously low. From the moon David heads to Space Station Alpha, where he awaits the next shuttle to Earth. Bova wonderfully caters to those ‘70s excesses when we are told – regretably without any detail – about the “zero-g orgy rooms” where David, off-friggin’ page, dallies with “several willing partners.” That’s right, folks: our virile hero does a bit of zero-g orgying and the author leaves it all off-page.
Anyway, David excitedly boards the shuttle for Earth, and before entering the atmosphere the craft is hijacked – by Bahjat’s PRU cell. The way Bova combined these two plot threads really impressed me, and there are more instances throughout the novel. Bahjat’s people use a “knockout spray” on their victims, and in fact this is how Bahjat meets David. The PRU diverts the Shuttle to Argentina, where Bahjat hopes to win the confidence of El Liberator. Things will not go as she hopes for, though. We know, again per the first page, that David and Bahjat are destined for one another, but Bova also skillfully plays this out through the text, developing a very believable connection between the two. When meeting each other, both are in love with someone else: Bahjat still pining over a guy whose loss has set her on the terrorist path, and David here on Earth looking for Evelyn (who was most mysteriously spirited away from Island One; David is certain Cobb got rid of her). Instead David and Bahjat find each other, and this is almost a novel in itself. First David, who discovers that here on Earth he cannot access any computer linkups, abducts Bahjat so as to escape the PRU, and soon the two are stuck together in a cross-continent escape as they try to make their way to America, both of them on the run for separate reasons.
A minor character nearly steals the novel here; David and Bahjat manage to get money from the PRU and pay for an illicit flight into Peru, as part of their escape plan to get into the US. The pilot of the small turbo-prop is a paunched, gray-haired local who gabs on about his days smuggling heroin in the ‘90s and how he’s been flying since he was a kid. He’s only in the book for a few pages but he’s the most colorful personality we meet. But then like any truly great novel, Colony has many such instances and characters that get stuck in your mind. Like The Right Stuff, this is a book I’d read in the morning while my kid was playing (the benefits of working from home!), and it took me so long to read that I almost felt as if I was experiencing something instead of just reading a book. I mean if you haven’t picked it up by now, I really enjoyed the novel.
I especially dug how Bova gave us a piece of ‘70s blockbuster fiction with sci-fi trimmings; there are a lot of groovy details in the novel, with even the décor sounding at times like the swank interiors of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s UFO or Space: 1999. David Adams’s place on Island One is a literal space age bachelor’s pad, complete with a waterbed and “thick carpeting of reddish gold.” And in true ‘70s bestseller form, there’s a bit of sex in Colony. Nothing too egregious or explicit, but it’s certainly not tame in that regard. Befitting a ‘70s protagonist, David Abrams scores with both of the main female characters: Evelyn and Bahjat. Interestingly, so too does Hamoud, the villain. This is a curious subtext Bova leaves for the reader to notice, but in many ways Hamoud is presented as David’s dark reflection, and this is just another component of that. These sex scenes are usually over and done with in a few sentences, and Bova doesn’t much exploit the women. In other trashy touches there’s a part where T. Hunter Garrison dallies in a pool with a pair of Japanese girls who have been trained in underwater talents – talents which they also demonstrate for Garrison’s busty redheaded assistant-slash-bodyguard. The only “dirty” bit is the off-hand mention of Evelyn’s “anal” adventures with Hamoud. Good grief!
While David proves to be instrumental not only in the solving of the novel’s central crisis but also the future of humanity itself, it’s to Bova’s credit that he gives full subplots for the majority of his characters, with storylines that pan out regardless of whether they’ve encountered David or not. What I mean to say is that these characters come off as very realized, with their own goals and plans. Colony features a large cast of characters, and Bova is for the most part pretty good in that he focuses on these characters individually, either via chapter breaks or white spaces. But at times he is guilty of terrible POV-hopping, by which I mean he’ll switch perspectives without warning the reader via a line or chapter break. Here is the worst example in the novel; note that this paragraph is part of a long sequence from the perspective of black terrorist Leo, but abruptly switches perspective to David – who Leo doesn’t even know yet at this point of the book! – without proper warning:
Ironically Bova published a book titled The Craft Of Writing Fiction That Sells in 1994, in which he prided himself on how he handled perspective changes in Colony, even using similar excerpts as an example of how to do it! I was like, dude – no, it’s not! Give the reader a little white space or something before you switch perspective! But this is a minor quibble, and might not even bother most readers. I read Gary Provost’s Make Your Words Work (1990) a little over twenty years ago, and have never been able to ignore POV-hopping since. Otherwise Bova very skillfully juggles this large cast, and does such a good job of it that at no point was a I confused as to who was who. And the way he brought so many of them together really appealed to me. I’ve always been a fan of that sort of tesseract approach in fiction, where multiple storylines and characters converge in unexpected ways, and Colony featured a lot of that.
The saga takes place over a few months, and David Adams certainly grows as a character, from the naïve young man on Island One to a visionary who orchestrates mankind’s next step in the stars. This journey encompasses so many memorable incidents, Bahjat at David’s side for many of them. There’s a great part where they get to Manhattan just as Leo and his soldiers start their war on “the white asses,” and Bahjat and David head underground to bypass the savagery above, navigating through rat-filled tunnels with a failing flashlight. Bova develops a sort of “enemies in love” setup; first David is Bahjat’s prisoner on the shuttle, and then he takes her prisoner when he escapes the PRU in Argentina. After this they become unlikely allies, Bahjat using her PRU contacts to fund their long travel by land up into the US, but once they get into PRU-controlled New York David is once again Bahjat’s prisoner. Not that this stops them, finally, from a bit of good lovin’, Bova delivering the long-awaited sequence more from a romantic perspective than a sleazy one.
The various plot threads eventually tie around Island One, and Bova plays out the finale there. He brings the place to life; in particular I liked the bizarre aspect that, when looking up at the “sky,” you can actually see more houses and communities “above” you. This gives Evelyn the expected vertigo on her first night in Island One. David however is used to it, having grown up here, but there’s another nice character moment where, on his first night on the Earth later in the novel, he sits outside all night to watch the sun rise. Bova fills the novel with memorable sequences and touches. He also brings his various locales to life without the “hard science” technical detail I feared; Selene, Space Station Alpha, the World Government headquarters in Messina: all these places are captured with just a few effective sentences of word painting. And again I liked how we saw David’s superhuman makeup in action, rather than it being exposited to us; this superhuman makeup factors into David’s plot in the finale in a way that was very interesting in our Covid era.
In fact, Bova strives for a sentimental finale along the lines of what Harold Robbins would regularly dole out for his characters, no matter how depraved they may be; even T. Hunter Garrison, who orchestrates a veritable holocaust in the US, is given a heroic makeover in the climax. I won’t spoil anything, but one issue I had with Colony was that there was little comeuppance for most of the villains in the finale. For example, Bahjat’s PRU cel manages to stop Island One’s solar energy from reaching the Earth, and we learn that over seven thousand people die as a result – areas that are in the midst of heavy snowstorms and such have no access to power, and many die. (On second thought these PRU terrorists are as bad as the real thing…) But the “love triumphs over all” finale Bova delivers undermines this atrocity. James Nicoll, in his review of Colony, scoffs not at this, but that Bahjat “becomes David’s reward at the end of the book, like a slave girl awarded to a victorious warrior.” He overlooks that Bahjat deserves much worse, given that she’s killed over seven thousand people. Modern reviewers are so hung up on identity politics that they ignore actual story elements.
This is indicative of the sea change that has occurred in Western society over just a few decades, and is another thing neither Bova nor any other sci-fi writer of his day could have predicted. And this is not intended as a slight against Nicoll, who is clearly knowledgeable about sci-fi. But his review title, “Soaked in 1970s-style sexism like a hopeful swinger reeking of Hai Karate,” is the epitome of what I’m talking about, as it gives a dismissive impression of a worthy book. (And also, you shouldn’t be surprised to know, his description sounds exactly like the type of novel I’d like to read!) Clearly readers of the actual era would not have seen things through the nauseating “woke” filter of today. I’ve only found one contemporary review of Colony: download Science Fiction Review #28 from November 1978, go to page 28, and there you will find a review of Colony by none other than Orson Scott Card. He raves about the novel and his only real complaint isn’t about the race or “women without agency” stuff, but that Bahjat falls in love after one night in the sack (with the man who sets her on the path to PRU activism). Card also sees that Bova was clearly going for the “science fiction meets bestseller” approach, and pointedly brings up Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer, of the year before, as comparison. That book certainly did better than Colony, which seems to have been forgotten, so I’m curious if Bova attempted this blockbuster fiction approach in any further novels.
The Stand On Zanzibar similarities I noticed when I first spotted Colony in the bookstore is that periodically the text is broken up with communiques, journal entries, or “tapes for an unauthorized biography” of Cyrus Cobb. This is Bova’s way of opening up his world while also advancing the narrative, but at the same time it occurred to me that it was another interesting comparison between Bova’s 2008 and the future we actually got. Because, despite the overbearing World Government, those news communiques are true, in that they reflect the actual “truth” of what is happening in the narrative. In other words, if there is rioting in Argentina or whatever, or people have been abucted on Island One, the communiques state that. What I mean to say is, there is no fake news in Colony, and it’s another indication of how Bova’s world is less complicated than ours.
As I mentioned above, Bova’s 2008 is basically the world we are lurching toward. In his projected future the carbon footprint has mostly been erased, with people driving electric bikes and etc. And all nations are united in a World Government which solely gets its power from solar energy. Bova, despite not playing sides in his fictional world, does clearly seem to think this is the way to go, yet he doesn’t seem to grasp that his novel makes the case that countries should not unite, and that it would be dangerous to put all your energy eggs in one basket, so to speak. I mean, those seven thousand who die when the Island One solar energy is stopped. Did the people in those countries no longer have access to gas-powered furnaces or the like? It seems ridiculous, but again it also seems like an indication of where we are going. Just over a year ago the United States was energy independent, gas was cheap and empty shelves at the grocery store wasn’t even a concern. Now, after a few policy changes by a new administration, gas prices have skyrocketed and global starvation looms on the horizon…all due to policies that are driven by a climate change agenda. Bova doesn’t dwell on the birth pangs his world would have gone through to become a solar energy-dependent new world order, but certainly we now in the present are going through something very similar to those birth pangs.
This is a novel that took me on a journey, and it was the pure escapism that I wanted. And yet it clearly made me speculate about things in our own world, and I can think of no further indication of what makes for a great novel. Well, I can think of one other thing: I didn’t want Colony to end. I’m sure I will read it again someday. I’m also wondering if any of Bova’s other novels are along the same lines. Maybe someday I will read Kinsman or Millennium; Bova combined the two in 1988 as The Kinsman Saga, rewriting a portion of each novel so that they would flow more smoothly together as one story. But I’d more than likely read the originals, for fear that the ’88 edition might remove the swanky ‘70s details I demand. However so far as this sequence goes, Colony was the last novel; curiously though in 1985 Bova published Privateers, which concerns the mining of asteroids in our solar system. This is exactly what David Adams plans to do in the climax of Colony, however Privateers does not occur in the same world as Kinsman, Milennium, or Colony, featuring as it does a Soviet Union that’s still running in the early 21st century.
So in conclusion I give Colony my highest recommendation, not just as a sci-fi novel but as a novel, and if any of you can suggest any other “sci-fi meets popular fiction” novels from the era I’d greatly appreciate it. Per above Orson Scott Card specifically compared Colony to Lucifer’s Hammer, but that one sounds like a post-nuke pulp with its apocalyptic setting – I’m looking for something more like mini-skirts on Mars or the like, with that “full ‘70s flavor” in space. Something that Colony delivers in spades. And finally here’s the back cover (the cover portrait of Bahjat is repeated on the spine of the book, by the way, and this was what initially captured my eye on the bookshelf when I first discovered the book):