April 7th, 2009

book 1

Gray Apocalypse by James Murdoch

Publisher: Demand, 2009
Genre: Science fiction
Sub-genre: Alien encounter

Read the full, spoiler-free review here.

Most of the narrative follows Kendon as he tries to find the weapon that will stop the aliens from destroying the earth. Occasionally, the perspective shifts to Tepler, the astronomist in Puerto Rico who first discovers the nearing asteroid and figures out the ramifications of its trajectory. The two parts of the story mesh well, ramping up the suspense and giving giving both the insider and outsider's point of view.

Kendon himself is an interesting creature, an assassin who kills repeatedly in cold blood but feels guilt over it and would really rather use his psychic abilities to heal people. For him, stopping the aliens and the asteroid is as much about redeeming himself as it is about protecting human life on earth. Raised in a secret, sterile environment to be a killer, Kendon is always a little removed from his surroundings, which makes perfect sense given the character but also means I had a hard time believing in the love interest between him and Laura, the scientist's daughter. It felt to me more like he figured she was the only woman he knew, therefore it must be love.

Kendon does expand his psychic repertoire, growing more powerful and learning new tricks as he goes along. In my mind the progression felt natural, like each new "trick" was just one step beyond what he'd done before, but some readers might feel this is yet another case of the protagonist adding new abilities at every turn like they were charms on a bracelet.

The exposition is cleverly handled, bringing readers into the world and the logic ruling it with subtle guidance before building on the situation. From there, the action builds into a plot I kept thinking felt an awful lot like an action movie. You know the kind: man on the run, gunfights, explosions, lots of thinking out loud and expositional dialogue, and a pretty chick sidekick who doesn't really do a lot but the hero seems to like her a lot, likely because she has a great rack. Which is to say the book is a lot of fun, there's plenty going on and the ride is enjoyable brain candy even if it doesn't break any new ground.