A Fast-Paced Thrill Ride
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A fast-paced thrill ride. That is my four word summation of Stormhaven Rising. This science fiction thriller fuses real, cutting-edge science within a very plausible scenario; what if we discovered an asteroid – one that could threaten all life on earth – and we only have 2 years (698 days) before it strikes the Earth? What would our response be? How would people, and countries, react?
Set in a near-future astronomers at Kitt Peak Observatory make a startling discovery, an asteroid about 12 cubic miles in size that will hit the Earth in a little less than 2 years. As soon as the discovery is made a race is on to get the information to people who can do something about it. But these various groups have very different motives. The US Government, headed by President Sylvia Hutton and members of her cabinet, seizes one of the astronomers and puts a lid down on the information, trying to prevent a panic while they formulate a plan to deal with the threat. Another astronomer manages to sneak the information into the hands of Colton Taylor, a billionaire industrialist and head of Stormhaven – a community of scientists, engineers, and inventors – almost a Silicon Valley-like commune – set in the Arizona desert – who may be able to do something, if given a chance. When the government learns that Taylor and Stormhaven are holding the astronomer they send an agent from the Department of Homeland Security to arrest the astronomer and prevent the spread of the information about the asteroid. These simple events set up an armed standoff between the US Government and Stormhaven. Meanwhile, the US begins its efforts to deal with the threat using the resources of the International Space Station and their small lunar base. While the US has managed to keep information about the asteroid a secret the Chinese, peeked by the unusual activity of the US Government, discover the asteroid on their own and formulate their own plan to deal with the threat. The actions of these different groups, each with their own motives and resources, put them all on a collision course that may be more disastrous for the planet than the asteroid itself.
Eric Michael Craig knows his science, and knows how to tell a story. The action is fast-paced and holds your attention. When it is necessary to dive into the science, he weaves it around and through the story and characters so that you can understand the relevance and importance without being put to sleep or bogging down the pace of the action. There are no info dumps. Craig gets the science right, from how to best deal with an asteroid threat, to the cutting-edge technology wielded by the Stormhaven group. This is a techno-thriller in the truest sense of the genre and it was fun to be brought along for the ride.
I greatly enjoyed the characters and their motives. Each of the main characters (and there are a few of them) are fleshed out and you get a feel for who they are and why they are doing what they do. Each stays true to who they are, unless they make the decision to change their own minds. In addition, there is no real protagonist in the story (unless you count the asteroid, which I feel functions more like a McGuffin than a real protagonist) as each of the characters see themselves as doing what they feel is best not only for themselves, and their country, but for the Earth as well. I tended to “root” more for Colton Taylor and the Stormhaven people mostly out of an ingrown desire to see the maverick and underdog (in terms of political power – Stormhaven is certainly not an underdog when it comes to technology) to succeed and overcome the obstacles placed in front of them. The other story lines and characters were just as well developed (except for a story line around an evangelical pastor, which didn’t add much to the overall story – maybe he plays a bigger role in the second book), and I found all of their motivations true and compelling, but I wanted Stormhaven to “win”.
The book is long, over 400 pages in print, but don’t let that deter you. I couldn’t put the book down and had to force myself to stop each night so I could get some sleep and not be a zombie in the morning. The pace and story make you want to keep reading, to learn more and find out what’s going to happen next. There were some minor errors in editing, but I probably picked them up more because I edit a lot rather than the fact that they stood out. The book also ends on a cliff-hanger, which can be a bit annoying, but in this case it is justified because of the nature of the story. Overall, I highly recommend this book for anybody who loves hard sci-fi or a good techno-thriller. I am looking forward to reading the sequel. Stormhaven Rising is a gripping techno-thriller that delivers on all points.