by Douglas Preston
Doug Preston's latest solo effort starts with a bang--literally--in the form of a meteoroid impact off the coast of Maine. And that's where the juggling begins. Preston's juggling three narrative threads. The first involves two young girls who go in search of the fallen meteoroid. They're after big bucks on Ebay, and maybe a little adventure. They get a hell of a lot more than they bargained for.
The second thread involves a researcher with the Mars Mapping Orbiter (MMO) project at the National Propulsion Facility (NPF, but you might as well think JPL). Mark Corso has just been promoted. In fact, he's taken the position of his disgraced mentor, Jason Freeman, who was fired and then murdered in a random home invasion. (Uh huh.) A few days after Dr. Freeman's death, Mark receives a package from his mentor with a stolen hard drive full of very classified, very illegal data. He can not have this data! He's got to destroy the thing, forget he ever saw it... but he can't help looking to see what's on it first. And so Mark Corso gets sucked into what may be the biggest, most dangerous scientific discovery of all time. And possibly the biggest cover up, too.
And finally, the third thread involves our old friend Wyman Ford. (Don't worry if you haven't read his previous adventures. This book is essentially a stand alone. There's not a thing you need to know from previous books that will affect your reading of this one.) Ford's a former CIA operative, a freelancer now, and he's just been offered a job. There have been some very unusual gems showing up for sale in Asia. They're strikingly beautiful, but notably unlike anything anyone's seen before. And potentially quite dangerous. Ford is tasked with finding the source of the stones and reporting back. It's one of the easiest assignments he's taken in recent years. (Uh huh.)
Preston does a good job of keeping all his balls up in the air. This 368-page book has an even 100 chapters. You can do the math. That's a whole bunch of short, fast-paced chapters. Almost every one of them ends on a hook, making the novel virtually impossible to put down. Preston places his characters in every type of peril you can imagine, from the everyday unpleasantness of a strung out drug addict, to an extraordinary threat to all life on earth. Simply put, Preston goes all out with this one.
Is some of it ridiculous? Sure. I mean, what waitress knows that much about astrophysics? But then again, I'm a college drop-out who knows a hell of a lot about physics. It could happen. Actually, now that I try to think of examples of ridiculousness, they evade me. My point is, read Impact with a sense of fun. Enjoy it as the thrill ride, and the homage to the greats of science fiction, that it is. If you set out to pick it apart, you'll be able to find flaws. Just leave it alone and have a good time. Because this book is a really good time. You're going to be holed up inside some snowy weekend this winter. I seriously can't imagine a more entertaining way to pass the time.