Friday, December 13, 2013

Impact - Douglas Preston

   2009; 416 pages. New Author? : No.    Genre : Action-Thriller.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    On the Maine coast, an extremely bright meteor flashes right over Abbey Straw’s head before disappearing over the Atlantic.  In California, scientist Mark Corso is working on an ambitious Mars-mapping project when he receives an unexpected package from his recently-deceased mentor.  And in Washington, the government sends Wyman Ford on a covert mission to Cambodia, to check out a radioactive gemstone mine.  He doesn’t have to do anything; just observe.

    Three disparate storylines, without any apparent connection.  So why does someone now want to kill all three protagonists?

What’s To Like...
     Douglas Preston wrote it, so you know that the action will be non-stop and that there will be a Crichton-esque science twist.  But Impact also has a human angle, involving the generation gap that separates Abbey and her father.

    Most of the characters are “gray”.  Abbey and her friend Jackie are potheads; Corso is ambitious but rash.  And Abbey’s dad has to cope with her proclivity for wrecking boats.  Wyman is a bit too “white hat”, and Randall Worth is utterly “black hat”.  The killer is resourceful, alert, and catches some lucky breaks.  I like my baddies that way.

    The language is occasionally R-Rated; but that makes it real-world.  This is a standalone novel, although I gather Preston has written several books featuring Wyman Ford.  There isn’t a hint of romance; this is a guy-book.

    The “action ending” is superb;  The “science ending” is a bit contrived.  It would’ve been edgier to leave the world dangling as to the possibility of outer space interaction.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Tuk-Tuk (n.)  :  a three-wheeled motorized vehicle used as a taxi.  (Google-image it)

    ”Abbey, what’s in the box?”
    Her father stood in the doorway of the kitchen, still wearing his orange rubber boots, his checked shirt stained with diesel fuel and lobster bait.  His windburned brow was creased with suspicion.
    “A telescope.”
    “A telescope?  How much did it cost?”
    “I bought it with my own money.”
    “Great,” he said, his gravelly voice tense, “if you never want to go back to college and stay a waitress the rest of your life, blow your paycheck on telescopes.”
    “Maybe I want to be an astronomer.”  (pg. 3)

    “A few years ago the Hubble Space Telescope stared for eleven days at an empty spot of night sky no bigger than a dust speck.  Night after night it collected the faintest light from that pinpoint of sky.  It was an experiment to see what might be there.  You know what it saw?”
    “God’s left nostril?”
    Abbey laughed.  “Ten thousand galaxies.  Galaxies never seen before.  Each one with five hundred billion stars.  And that was just one pinprick of sky, chosen at random.”  (pg. 120)

“Ah, well.  A boat’s just a boat.”  (pg. 182)
    There are some weaknesses.  Wyman’s “plan” for dealing with the Cambodian labor camp is a royal WTF, and all of the Southeast Asians are stereotyped.  Ditto for the depiction of Muslims towards the end of the book.  Some of the science is apparently flawed, and the overall plotline, while action-packed, doesn’t have any “twists” to it.  The killer chases our heroes, eventually catches them, and the exciting-but-predictable outcome ensues.

    OTOH, if you’re not an astronomer or a radiation expert (and I’m not), and you’re just looking for a thriller that will keep you turning the pages, Impact serves just fine.

    7½ Stars.  Add 1 star if you’re really in the mood for a beach/airport novel.

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