Friday, April 23, 2010

1048. Impact


Recently, I have had a run of good luck with the books I have been reading, as they have provided ample entertainment, and made for an exciting read. This includes this fantastic little gem of a book that I saw at the bookstore and I had to pick-up. It is called, Impact by Douglas Preston and it is a most unusual thriller.

Before, I get into the meat of this review, I am reminded that I had never read a book by Douglas Preston before this one, but he has been an author that I have kept my eye on in the past few years. For one reason or another, his titles have attracted me, but I had not had occasion to pick one up. I had previously purchased "Blasphemy", but I had not read it. Suffice it to say, I intend to change that oversight.

The other thing that I find interesting is the plot of this book. Without of course, giving away too many details, the book opens as your standard scientific-mystery-whodunit-cum-thriller. Recently (and this encompasses the past couple of years), I have been reading about the death of the Science Fiction Genre as a Literary Genre and how the amount of written material being produced in it, is nowhere near what we used to see during the Golden Age or even the Silver Age (anything after the 1960s into the 1980s) or even beyond.  Plus the written material has no coherence to it, and is all over the map, as in, there is no particular style that dominates science fiction as a Genre. This then, could be the reason why a lot of writers don't want to be categorized as Science Fiction writers anymore, even though they constantly delve into that Genre, and yet, their books are found on the more acceptable, mainstream, fiction sales, aisles. The supposition then is, that Douglas Preston here, has written a masterful Science Fiction novel, but one that will not be categorized as such in any bookstore or library, and similarly will never win any major Literary Science Fiction awards like the Nebula or Hugo. On the other hand, the author is able to sell his very masterful cautionary tale to a much wider audience. Is that an acceptable trade-off?  You be the judge.

The plot of this novel is simple enough: Something has impacted the Earth, hitting off the coast of Maine. In addition, one of the scientists from the Mars Mapping Mission at the California Institute of Technology has been found dead because of what he knows. Meanwhile, another scientist, has picked-up the mantle of the dead scientist and continued his research. Something is going on, on Mars. Is the Earth impact and the events on Mars related? This world spanning adventure, which is very well plotted, and paced, with good characters, will keep your interest through-out, and will leave you breathless in many places. It was hard to put down for very long and it was definitely one of those books that I finished in less than 3 days. If it wasn't for other obligations, I would have read it in one sitting.

Yes, some of the side characters are kind of sketchy, and some of the details are still left hanging out there, but in a book such as this, the main plot, and the people you really care about, who are at the center of things, are well conceived, and isn't that all you can ever expect from a well plotted book?

So, I highly recommend this book, and I give it a well earned 5 stars out of 5. A most enjoyable first read for me from Mr. Douglas Preston.

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