Fantasy Review, No. 80, June 1986, p. 16.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, vol. 45. Gale Research Company, 1987, p. 73.
Predictable but Unbelievable
Bova, Ben. Orion. Fireside/Simon & Schuster, New York, July 1984. 432 p. $9.95, paper. ISBN 0-671-50386-3.
When you read a “major” novel and come away thinking “unbelievable,” something is wrong. Part of this feeling may be due to timing; reading Orion after reading some of Poul Anderson’s time travel stories and before a couple Roger Zelazny fantasies puts the novel up against some stiff competition. Yet Bova is hardly a lightweight author; Kinsman and Millennium, for example, displayed very tight plotting, crisp action, and memorable characters. Orion, in spite of its length [expanded from “Floodtide” in Analog], lacks any of these characteristics.
The title character, Orion, has been created by Ormazd, a god-like being, to destroy Ahriman, the Dark Lord. Given this fantastic premise, loosely based on ancient myths, the reader might expect a fantasy. Instead, Orion lives backward in time, reborn again and again at earlier stages in human history, starting in the near future and ending ten thousand years ago. Orion is greatly confused by all this, and the predictable, tedious dialogues which patch together the four main sections do little to help matters.
Where Anderson may have made the Mongols come alive with some interesting tidbits on everyday life, plus a few well-rounded character sketches, Bova’s Mongols are textbook bland. An interesting variation on the Biblical story of the great flood, instead of inspiring some Zelazny-like poetic prose, reads more like a high school student complaining about his poor love life. As for the conclusion–well, it is about as satisfying as a thoroughly predictable plot and poor characters will allow: it is unbelievable.
–Lawrence I. Charters