Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Heaven's Shadow is a thrill ride
David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt
Ace Penguin Hardback, July 2011
Reviewed by Ann Wilkes
Heaven's Shadow begins with quite a few familiar sci-fi elements: alien artifact, space exploration, first contact and pod people. But what David S. Goyer and Micahael Cassutt do with these still shiny plot elements is magic. In 2017, a Near Earth Object has come within the range of existing manned spacecraft. NASA and the Russian-Indian-Brazilian Coalition both divert manned missions to the moon to the NEO instead.
After both vehicles touch down, NASA suffers a casualty when an astronaut is thrown by what they believed to be the venting of a volcano. The home team, headed by Harley Drake, discovers that the "ventings" aren't random, but have served to park the NEO in a stable orbit. The X2016 K1 NEO, dubbed Keanu (yeah, that didn't thrill me either), is actually an alien space ship. The Coalition team helps to get the injured astronaut to safety and then members from each team explore the vent together.
Zack didn't have to ask any of them to take pictures, or do a radar scan. Lucas, Natalia and Pogo swarmed the marker, recording every possible angle. Lucas had hauled a new camera from the sled, bulkier and less finished-looking than the other instruments. "What's a Zeiss MKK?" Zack said.
At that moment, Pogo noted a wisp of vapor on the leg of the commander's suit. "Boss," he said, suddenly worried, pointing. "Check your pressure."
But Zack didn't seem worried. "This chamber is pressurized. Look at the ground..."
Pogo did, and saw a puddle. "Zack," he said.
"I think its water," the commander said quickly. "It appeared to be melt from my boots. Yours, too, I'm guessing."
Natalia disagreed. "There's more here than we were carrying."
Then Lucas said, "I hear something."
And Pogo realized he'd been hearing it, too. "Is that wind?"
"What the hell is going on?" Natalia said. She sounded nervous. Pogo couldn't blame her. Puddles of liquid? Air pressure? Wind? Some of those conditions could exist on the surface of Mars, so it wasn't unthinkable.
But on a NEO – inside a NEO?
Commander Zack Stewart must keep control of a mission that has taken a serious left turn into unexpected first contact and is further complicated with an injured comrade, the death of another ... and then there's the appearance of his undead wife.
Heaven's Shadow is a thrill ride from start to finish with exciting action back on Earth as well. Zack's friend, Harley Drake, in addition to his regular NASA Home Team duties, is tasked with keeping track of Zack's teenage daughter while she's there in the visitor area. Things get really interesting for Rachel when she's able to talk to someone who claims to be the mother she lost two years before. And Harley is then tapped as point person and team leader of the “48 Committee” which is the pre-designated term for experts assembled for any possible alien contact situation.
The book is first in a series. I'm sorry I have to wait a whole year to find out what happens next. Heaven's Shadow does have an ending of sorts. Much is resolved, though the journey has only just begun.
I appreciated the very human drama embedded in the science-laden, near future world. It's like space opera meets techno thriller. Heaven's Shadow is a must read – and soon to be a must see. Goyer is a screenwriter, comic book author, film producer and director. Cassutt is a screenwriter, American TV producer and author. They have been working on both the movie and the books. Look for Heaven's Shadow from Warner Bros., possibly as soon as July of 2012.
Read my interview with Goyer and Cassutt.