The novel “Mission to Minerva” by James P. Hogan was published for the first time in 2005. It’s the fifth and last book of the Giants series and follows “Entoverse“.
Victor Hunt has seen it all during the years in which he worked with the Ganymeans, then with the Thuriens and ending up in what was revealed as a Jevlenese plot. However, when he gets contacted by himself, even he is surprised because it’s an alternative version of Hunt who wants to give him a warning.
Once again, Victor Hunt collaborates with the Thuriens to try to solve the mystery of the parallel universes. The experiments start causing strange effects that must be understood, also because the further possibility of traveling in time could allow to shed light on another mystery that concerns the remote past of the planet Minerva.
“Mission to Minerva” begins where “Entoverse” ended, with a moment of peace between the various factions of humans and the Thuriens after the problems on the planet Jevlen. In the fourth novel James P. Hogan already changed considerably the type of story to a series that was created as archaeological science fiction introducing a series of elements of conspiracy with mixed results. In this last novel the author uses for its foundations the idea of parallel universes in which alternative realities exist with the possibility of communication between different universes.
The big problem of “Mission to Minerva” is that the experiments concerning everything around parallel universes and even time travel take up most of a rather long novel. The novel is not hard science fiction so there are no strong scientific basis in the development of this part of the plot, instead James P. Hogan tends to dwell in dialogues between characters who are trying to understand strange events.
The author adds to those foundations a number of digressions on other scientific but also social topics, again with mixed results. A negative element is the inclusion of pseudo-mysteries related to the origin of life in a novel published in 2005 so from that point of view it was badly aged right after getting published.
Often the plot of “Mission to Minerva” is used to discuss social and political systems using the differences between Earth and Thurien societies. Basically, it’s a comparison between a species that still has several problems and one that’s more empathetic and less competitive, with all the consequences.
Some socioal and political considerations may be interesting but James P. Hogan also includes the assumption that immortality implies decadence and this seems to me a consolatory position for human mortality, which however lacks real foundations and makes even less sense if applied to the Thuriens. They literally have a universe to explore and can do it but gave up immortality, yet limiting their possibilities to explore the cosmos according to the author doesn’t represent a decadence but the opposite. That seems to me a contradiction.
In the last part of “Mission to Minerva” something finally starts happening and the pace of the novel suddenly accelerates strongly with its transformation into an action story that includes a number of twists. In this grand finale James P. Hogan returns in some way to the roots of the story on which he based the Giants series and for this reason I think it’s at least evocative. Unfortunately, it seems a little hurried after all the previous long dissertations and based a lot on a conspiracy, an element that at that point of his career the author put everywhere, so it didn’t seem to be exploited at best.
The prologue summarizes the events of the previous novels but those are just a few pages, useful for refreshing your memory but certainly not to replace reading the novels. In my opinion, “Mission to Minerva” is a bit better than “Entoverse” but it needed strong cuts in the first half to be a good novel. If you read all the previous four novels, you may as well completing the series.