214 of 233 people found the following review helpful
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 effect 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. One of the easier 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 that 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 they greats of science fiction, that it is. If you try 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.
70 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2010
I look forward to every new offering from Preston and Child, whether it be their solo efforts or (and these are some of my favorite books) their combined efforts. I'll say that Impact didn't grab me quite like I expected it to.
What we have here are three concentric stories enveloped in a bigger story.
A series of strange and exotic gemstones never before seen suddenly start to show up and garner the interest of the CIA. Why? The stones have never been seen before. Oh, and they're quite deadly from a radioactivity standpoint. Wyman Ford is contacted by his old CIA higher ups in order to head to cambodia and take pictures of the mine.
At the same time the gems start showing up in Cambodia, a waitress/Princeton University dropout in Maine (Abbey) is using her telescope to gaze at the stars when she captures a picture of a meteoroid that struck the earth at just that time and landed off the coast of Maine. She's the only one who has any idea of the general area in which it fell. What's her idea? Find it and sell it on ebay!
Moving across the coast to California and the National Propulsion Facility at Cal Tech. A Mars mapping mission was set in motion nearly a year ago. Its mission to take high resolution pictures of the surface of Mars as well as using ground penetrating radar to see below the surface. An employee of NPF and professor at Cal Tech finds some strange gamma ray emissions from the surface of mars during his usual work. He finds the anomaly dangerous and brings it to his superiors. This being impossible, his superiors call him crazy, discredit him and have him fired. Shortly after he's found in his home, mysteriously murdered by a homeless person, but not before he forwards his research to one Mark Corso, senior technician on the Mars mapping project. Mark's curiousity gets the better of him and he delves into the stolen data only to find a shocking discovery.
The book's premise is interesting and it really heads places I wasn't expecting. There are a couple reasons why I didn't rate it higher though.
The book is separated into parts. The first part more or less tells each of these three stories independently, before they all start to meld together into the same, and main, plot line. I just found these buildups and back stories to be a bit involved. Not so much Mark's part in the story, but Abbey's particularly. Her 'hunt for the meteor' saga is a little drawn out and alot of it could have been left out with no detriment to the book. I have to say that I really wasn't all that engaged during the first part of the book and nearly put it down for a while.
I also found that Abbey, seemingly a genius despite being a Princeton dropout, seems to know TOO much at just the right times. It was a bit of a stretch to beleive. That being said, she was still an interesting character. I just found her constantly bailing everyone out at the right time was a bit much.
The second part of the book is where the three stories meld and the story really takes off. That's when I started to like it more. But I found the ending to be a little abrupt, albeit interesting. It seemed as if there was alot of build up to get to the final climax and then it was pretty much cleared up in several chapters which in this book, are short and rapid fire. I will say that the VERY ending was pretty clever when you stop to think about how it all worked out in.
In the end, definitely a solid read for Preston fans. It just has some slow going in the beginning and a supporting character that just seems to know too much at times to be believable.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
I have been an enormous fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child ever since I read 'Relic' a few months after it originally came out (how long ago has it been now? 13 years?) and while I view their novels very similar to how I view music by John Lennon & Paul McCartney: sure I like their solo stuff, but they write stuff better TOGETHER...the same for this duo. But that certainly doesn't mean that their solo stuff isn't sure-fire winners.
Take the latest from Mr. Preston. Impact was yet another home-run for him. While the cover of the book initially disappointed me, I have to remember its what you find INSIDE that counts, and boy does it!
What I enjoyed most was what--at first--originally I did not like about the book. Let me explain: right away the story splits off into 3 separate and distinct tales, and after a bit I got used to it after initially not liking this particular format. It wasn't until the 3 separate stories began to merge that I really came to appreciate the way in which the story unfolded. Another thing I have ALWAYS liked about certain books are short, crisp and entertaining chapters. I like to read in short bursts sometimes because I have 7 children, and lets face it, I rarely get much time to myself, so being able to read for 5-10 minutes at-a-time allows me to down 2-3 chapters and doesn't strand me in somewhere between one chapter and the next forcing me to backtrack next time I pick up the book to recall where I was exactly. The DOWNSIDE to that is since the chapters are so short, you end up promising yourself, as I do regularly, that I'll stop after the NEXT chapter only to be left hanging, and then making the same vow yet again and again. Don't get me wrong, I sincerely LOVE a story to grab me so directly that I have a hard time putting it down. With Impact, I can say without hesitation that Mr. Preston has written exactly THAT: a book VERY difficult to stop--once you start.
With each solo effort by both Preston and Child, I have noticed that their individual writing talents continue to improve steadily, making each of their stand alone novels almost on par with their co-writing efforts (which is HIGH praise in my opinion).
If you value sleep, you may want to hold off on reading Impact...but for those of you who can muster the self discipline to stop in time to catch a decent amount of sleep before getting up the next day, then I say GO FOR IT. Action, science and a great deal of what I like most: FUN is all on display here. A master at the height of his talent bringing it all to bear with this one. Kudos to Preston for really making me feel my $$ was VERY well spent (as usual). LOVED it!
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2010
Let me start by saying that I am a big Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child fan overall.
As far as Preston's fictional work, I truly enjoyed "Tyrannosaur Canyon", found "The Codex" pretty good, loved "Jenny". Unfortunately for readers, I consider "Impact" to be Mr. Preston's first true flop. Even "Blasphemy" had more going for it.
"Impact" has an intriguing start, and could have gone in many fascinating directions. Sadly, it doesn't. The plot becomes silly, and then gets sillier. The characters (even the heroine) are rather bland and uncharismatic, the twists are predictable, the pacing is uneven, the ending rushed, abrupt, and absurd.
Uncharacteristically lightweight and amateurish writing from Mr. Preston. Let's hope his next offering is back to his true form and skill.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Three people from different parts of the globe have stumbled upon separate pieces of a puzzle that, when put together, could be the most startling discovery in the history of space exploration. Abbey Straw is an astronomy student who was kicked out of college and now works as a waitress in Damariscotta, Maine. On nearby Shark Island, she discovers a crater where a meteor entered the earth and continued traveling through it. On the opposite side of the globe, near the Tai-Cambodia border, ex-CIA agent Wyman Ford discovers the crater where the meteor exited the earth. From the crater, radioactive gems are being mined via slave labor. Mark Corso is a data analysis technician at the National Propulsion Facility (NPF) in Pasadena, California. While analyzing radar images made of Deimos - a moon orbiting Mars - he discovers an ancient, alien machine hidden within a crater. What is the connection between the meteor and the machine? Who has hired Harry Burr to kill Straw, Ford and Corso before they publicize their horrifying discoveries?
From the high-tech offices of NPF to the primitive jungles and ancient temples of Cambodia to the rocky, treacherous coast of Maine, Douglas Preston takes his fans on a science fiction adventure that is highly creative and highly suspenseful. "Impact" combines the scientific theories of black holes and strange matter with cloak and dagger activities involving espionage, theft and assassination. This novel grips the reader from the very beginning when a meteor crashes somewhere off the coast of Maine. It continues at a fast pace as the main characters gather information that puts their lives in danger. Then the novel accelerates into high gear when the President and his cabinet realizes that our world is in danger of being destroyed. Who can prevent the impending disaster?
"Impact" will be appreciated by fans of numerous genres. It works especially well as an action adventure novel. My favorite scenes involve Ford when he is searching for the crater from which the radioactive gems are being mined. He is a type of Indiana Jones. Upon discovering the crater and witnessing the misery of the irradiated slaves, he is determined to destroy the mine rather than just photograph it. He fights numerous guards and risks death by slow torture. Ford is the type of person you can't help but admire. He later locates the beautiful, extremely intelligent African American waitress, Shaw, who also has a heart of gold; she loves her adoptive father and her best friend, Jackie, very much. Together, Ford and Shaw must stay one step ahead of the evil Burr who is hell bent on killing them. He is a professional hitman who has murdered many people. In fact, several of the novel's characters, including a main one, become his victims. This led me to believe that no one was safe and anything could happen. Will Shaw and Ford live long enough to stop the approaching catastrophe?
I believe "Impact" has set the groundwork for a sequel that could be even better. Readers will understand when I say that the potential for doom still exists after the last page has been read. When dealing with unknown alien forces, the danger never entirely vanishes. I would greatly appreciate it if Douglas Preston would bring Ford and Shaw back in one or several more of his future novels. I admire those two characters. Readers are probably wishing or hoping they would fall in love and marry despite their difference in race and age. He is old enough to be her father. Nevertheless, they would make a great team when investigating extraterrestrial phenomenon.
Famous for his science fiction adventures, Douglas Preston has cowritten, along with Lincoln Child, the prestigious Pendergast series. FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast investigates bizarre murders that are linked to the supernatural and, in many cases, involve ancient artifacts. His first novel in the Pendergast series, "Relic," was made into an intriguing monster film that is one of my favorites. Speaking of monsters, Preston has also cowritten, along with Italian journalist Mario Spezi, "The Monster of Florence." It is based on the true life account of a vicious, Jack the Ripper like serial killer; he preyed on young couples who were involved in romantic trysts in the secluded areas outside of Florence. Tom Cruise will be producing, and perhaps starring in, a film adaptation of "The Monster of Florence."
Joseph B. Hoyos
57 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2010
Impact follows a collection of different characters as their lives are irreparably changed by the impact of what appears to be a meteor/meteorite/metoriod??
I apologize for the spoilers throughout this review, however, this is the sort of book that you need to give everything away to explain just how poorly constructed the story is.
First of all the characters.
In part one of the story we have three protagonists: Abbey a young black woman just out of teenagedom, who smokes weed, makes smart-ass jokes and whose father is on her case about college. She is drawn into the story when she witnesses the plummeting meteor and steals her father's boat to try and claim the fallen star.
Corso an academic with connections to mars explorations who stumbles across secret data on an alien artefact on mars
And Ford, a Jack Bower type ex-something "I don't do that work anymore" guy who is asked to investigate a mine of rare metals that may be from out of this world.
These characters are a smooth blend of cliché and stereotype and come across flat. Abbey seemed to be the only character with any back-story to speak of, perhaps merely because she is young so still close to family. Otherwise the characters simply perform what they need to do to carry out the story, there is some attempt to spice up the narrative with ugly and antisocial antagonists and implausible sex but when key characters are poorly portrayed caricatures you can only imagine what the support cast are like.
In part two a serial killer antagonist is included in the mix, once again swinging the story towards thriller rather than sci-fi. Which leads onto the second problem, what genre is this book anyway?
If the answer is: "an awesome crossover sci-fi thriller" then the author should have spent more time trying to make the alien plot-line remotely believable, as it stands the story reads like an espionage thriller that just happens to all be about aliens. All the tension comes from human conflict and conspiracy, so why are there aliens at all? In the end the aliens don't even matter at all, apparently having been extinct for the past forever, we don't even see alien technology fall into the wrong hands or any other derivative plotline.
The extent of the research for this novel appears to be looking up the definition of dark matter. As if actually taking advice from "How not to write a novel" the characters frequently describe things in general terms so as to avoid the physical difficulties surrounding the concept of a ball of dark matter shooting through the middle of the earth, an alien weapon firing on earth from Demios (one of Mar's moons) and reader's ability to enjoy a novel that reads like a straight to TV (that's right, even skipping DVD) movie.
Perhaps the worst part of the book was the worst twist/reveal I've ever experienced in a novel, or even on TV (and I've seen the Scooby Doo cartoons)
Towards the end when there is an obligatory reveal of one of the good (or at least benign) characters as a traitor we discover that an academic is actually a devout Muslim and has been selling space secrets to Pakistan.
Bear in mind that neither Pakistan or Islam had featured in the novel, or been introduced as a side issue or even philosophical discussion by the cardboard characters. Considering that there were about ten more plausible explanations of how and why an academic may betray space secrets like the rest of the book this ending just left me asking why go in the Muslim direction? Why are there aliens? Why did I read this book again?
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2010
I love Doug's writing style and this story was no exception. It is well-paced, and I found the characters enjoyable. I also like the twist at the end which I certainly didn't see coming.
My only beef was a glaring astronomical error in the first chapter. Being an amateur astronomer for many years, I had to cringe at the mistake. However, I enjoy his writing so much that I was able to overcome my prejudice. From that point on, the story was entertaining and it was a pleasure to read.
He writes fairly short chapters, sticks to short paragraphs, and has plenty of good dialogue. It makes for a very entertaining and fast read. I only knock it down one star because of the astronomical error, but otherwise, it was a great story.
Though it was fast-paced, there were still plenty of slower moments to develop the story and keep things grounded. I really miss that in a lot of modern-day thrillers. You have to pause once in a while to discover things, give the characters a realistic resting period, etc. Doug doesn't overdo the pauses and still keeps the overall tension going.
If you like medium-paced thrillers, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2010
The overall plot is actually pretty good. Problems: the characters,storyline do not seem legit. I just simply didn't believe the nuts and bolts of the story. I never felt fully pulled into the book because I kept sarcastically thinking to myself: "oh, yeah, that would happen" on many plot points. (----SPOILER ALERT----) How can a waitress believably set the mission goals for the next century in international/world affairs to a room full high-ranking government officials--including the president?
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2010
The best of Preston's solo efforts so far! The story follows three paths: two women searching for a meteorite, Wyman Ford searching for the source of unusual gems, and a scientist's search for the source of mysterious gamma rays coming from Mars. The plot moves along at a rapid pace and all of it works. I couldn't put it down. Highly engrossing! Very entertaining! Buy it and enjoy!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2010
I would rate this 3.5 stars.
I am in general a fan of the Preston/Lincoln books and was interested to see how this solo book would be. I loved the premise and the story itself was a fun read. Some parts were hard to believe like Abbey having attended just 1 or 2 years of college level astronomy classes and being able to do a lot of what she did. Still if you ignore those types of things and just go with the flow this makes an enjoyable read. Abbey is a mouthy young girl who while not the most likeable person you have to start feeling bad for her after she gets herself into one bad situation after another. Ford immediately wins a spot in my heart from his actions early on in the book. I have mixed feelings when we finally find out who the mole at the National Propulsion Facility is because it comes as a surprise but almost too much so that it seems a little off base.
The main reason I did not give this book a higher rating is the end was very anti-climatic for me. You have all this great build up and then at the end I was thinking to myself, "Really? That's how it's going to end? Kind of lame." Still it's a book worth picking up if you are a fan of Preston's other books.