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Leapfrog Paperback – November 1, 2008
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Silent Corner" by Dean Koontz
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Ten thousand plus years later, the crew of the Leapfrog begins to revive from cryogenic sleep. Kim Finch takes charge and sends to the sun those officers who destroyed the mission. As they near earth they receive no signal. They soon learn of a man made virus and a nuclear assault. The humanoids on the planet are cannibalistic Neanderthal, but are not top of the food chain; that is crocs with brain power superior to the crew of Leapfrog. With the ship deteriorating, the humans need a safe place to land, but none seem available as the crocs seem to be in every fresh water locale and they have skills beyond the capability of the new two-legged intruders.
LEAPFROG is a fascinating futuristic science fiction thriller that grips readers from the moment humans fail to meet the simple standard set by the technologically superior aliens of sharing the benefits bestowed to earthlings. The action is fast-paced and never slows down as the humans return to earth to confront two new lethal species and the realization that mankind no longer is at the top of the food chain. The prime cast is solid as they make difficult decisions to stay alive. Although a side trip to the moon brings an exciting deadly third species that sequence feels unnecessary as it adds little to the prime objective: survival on an earth when the top dog is a physically and mentally superior species.
Steve Hendry has a fast-paced writing style full of movement, action and violence. From the very first scene where the Major of the starship is betrayed by government secret service, to the survivors of the long sojourn through space having to find food and energy on a planet filled with hostile humans and intelligent monsters. Most of the ideas in Hendry's novel are really interesting, such as why the ship is named Leapfrog, the anonymous aliens desire to advance human civilization, the treachery and paranoia of world governments, and the reason why the devastation that has afflicted Earth eventually came to pass. Hendry draws upon current events as well as his service in the U.S. Navy to create a realistic portrayal of people fighting to stay alive.
Though Leapfrog is very readable, I do wish there was more "meat" to hold on to with the characters. The narrative introduces readers to many characters that die too quickly even before they've become a presence on the page. Most of the characters have functions within the story that pushes forward the narrative, making this a plot-heavy novel, but I never really develop a strong connection with the individuals themselves. "Leapfrog" is, however, science fiction, so characterization isn't essential for this to be deemed a worthwhile addition to the genre. However, halfway through the book, I was mainly reading to see out what happened that caused the drastic changes on Earth.
Overall, I think people who are fans of science fiction as well as interested in a projection of how current world events may one day affect humankind's future will be pleased with Hendry's "Leapfrog."