Wyman Ford, a former CIA agent turned freelance investigator, first introduced to Preston's fans in TYRANNOSAUR CANYON and BLASPHEMY, returns to complete a solo undercover mission to locate a secret Cambodian mine hidden deep in the north Vietnamese jungles. The mine is turning out some very unusual gemstones that happen to be highly radioactive. But, as you might expect with any thriller penned by the likes of Douglas Preston, nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems at first glance. It isn't long before Ford finds his path crosses with a young girl who's attempting to locate the impact site of a small asteroid that recently lit up the night skies of Maine as it screamed into the earth's atmosphere.
At this point the credibility meter is pushed way up into the red zone and right off the scale when we discover that the asteroid isn't an asteroid and the Cambodian mine isn't a mine. The asteroid was actually a mini-black hole shot from an alien weapon based on Mars and the Cambodian mine was (are you ready for this?), the exit wound caused when this mini-black hole blasts its way straight through the earth. The Mars group at the National Propulsion Facility, the CIA, the White House and the American military (God Bless 'Em!) are doing their best to cover up the entire event but Wyman Ford is having none of that.
For those of you that might think these are spoilers, I'll simply say that I beg to differ. You can't spoil what any alert sci-fi reader can figure out for themselves inside of a very few pages. The plot is quick moving with lots of suspense, lots of cliff hangers and lots of twists and turns but, ultimately, it's pretty predictable stuff until the very ending. Now that is where the whole strength of this novel lies! Like BLASPHEMY which is actually a philosophical essay on the existence or the nature of god, IMPACT is more by way of an attempt to provoke thought on the world's reaction to extra-terrestrial intelligence and contact. What do we do if we meet them? What do we say when we meet them? Will we ever be capable of actually communicating with an alien extra-terrestrial species? What will THEY be trying to say when they contact us? What will their intentions be?
As a long time Trekkie with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics, I'm in Stephen Hawking's camp. I believe they're out there and I do believe that, at some point, contact is an inevitability. So I think some advance thought as to our response is both appropriate and important. As a thriller, IMPACT is great fun albeit mindless and predictable. But it attempts to place important questions into the public's consciousness and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.
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