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Lost Coast Rocket (Mare Tranquillitatis Series) (Volume 1) Paperback – July 4, 2016
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About the Author
Joel Horn was barely five years old when his parents moved their family from southern California to a remote mining claim in the Trinity Alps. In his first published work, Impossible Beyond This Point (2013), Joel combines his parents' writings with his own recollections to create a fascinating and entertaining account of the family's struggle and triumph creating a self-sufficient life in the wilderness. Joel still lives at the family homestead in far northern California. Lost Coast Rocket is Joel’s debut novel. The story continues in the second book in the Mare Tranquillitatis Series, Hatching the Phoenix Egg. You can find Joel online at www.JoelHornAuthor.com
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Aerospace genius Ken makes friends with another aerospace genius, Akira when both of them are little more than toddlers. Their whole lives consist of making and launching rockets. At first, the rockets are just toys. But as they grow older they begin to use the books and tools Ken inherited from his NASA engineer grandfather to build ever larger and more realistic rockets.
When Ken is eight years old, he sneaks out in the rain one evening to show Akira something and unexpectedly encounters a mudslide. Hearing a cry for help, he goes to investigate and finds a woman trapped under a tree and her little girl trying to free her. He tries to help too, and they are having some success when he is momentarily distracted by another tree coming toward them. After that, they are unable to free the woman in time, and the woman dies. Ken feels guilty for not being able to save the woman and, after helping the little girl to safety on the street where emergency personnel are beginning to gather, he slips off home again.
When, some years later, he encounters a Facebook campaign by the little girl to find the boy from that night, he knows who it is immediately – and refuses to answer the call. Only to Akira, his best friend, does he tell the story.
Some more years pass, and one of the other boys in the group of rocket-builders that has formed around them brings in a girl. Once Ken gets a look at her, he knows it is Dawn – the girl from that night. She, however, doesn’t recognize him. But she does agree to join their group. Her dream is to become a pilot.
There is a sort-of romance between Ken and Dawn. She loves him, and he would do anything for her – anything, that is, except tell her that he is the boy she met the night of her mother’s death. Between that and his tendency to lose himself in his work on the rockets, he lets slip too many opportunities to really connect with her.
Over the years the group builds increasingly larger and more powerful rockets. Much of the story is the mechanics of how they build these rockets, how they overcome various obstacles to getting the materials they need for the rockets and their motors and for the fuel they need – a potentially dangerous operation – and the contortions they have to go through to test their rockets. This road trip seems to me to be the least realistic of all the things they do. The rockets, in comparison, sound very plausible. This is actually rocket science, and although it doesn’t get into too much detail, there is a lot of technical discussion.
They travel to the desert to launch some of their larger rockets. But the culmination of their efforts is the launch of a rocket they call the Saturn V. To escape detection, they decide to launch it from a place known as the Lost Coast – apparently, a government reservation frequently shrouded in fog.
The actual coast part is reached by a treacherous excuse for a road that you wonder how they manage to get down with a trailer holding a pretty good-sized disassembled rocket and that dangerous rocket fuel without killing themselves.
Thanks to the author for a free copy of this book for review.
Ken and Akira are determined to put one of their homemade rockets in orbit, and through a series of machinations manage to launch it from Lost Coast, an isolated locale. Unfortunately, this puts them in the crosshairs of the FBI, forcing them to keep their great accomplishment a secret.
Lost Coast Rocket by Joel Horn is an ambitious first novel. Though the prose is a bit overwritten at the start, and some of the flashbacks are too long, by the middle, when Ken is working to develop a rocket capable of taking a man into deep space and coming to terms with his feelings for Dawn, the narrative picks up considerably and the writing is lean and fast paced.
The ending, while technically not a cliff hanger, leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. Ken is on a one-way mission, and Dawn is left on earth knowing that the man she loves is forever out of her reach. The author has included a teaser from the second book in the series, so we know that Ken doesn’t die, but we’re only given a peek at what happens next.
This is a hard book to categorize. It’s part science fiction, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story. Thanks to the flashbacks, we have a good insight into the main characters, but this could have been provided with far less verbiage. I found myself skipping over a lot of the flashbacks, anxious to get back to the action.
Despite what might sound like negative criticism, I found the story quite entertaining, and give it three and a half stars.
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Joel Horn begins the tale of Kenneth B.Read more
Plausible Science Fiction, Adventure, Mystery, Love, Danger... This story has it all! Rockets are in Ken's DNA.Read more