Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review of Offworld

I am a fan of Robin Parrish.

I've followed him for a while through his now-defunct site Infuze, which melded coverage of Christianity with the latest in pop culture. I was introduced to a lot of things there. I disagreed with him on some shows. I read his first three books, the Dominion Trilogy, and was literally ready to pull out my hair after the cliffhanger for the second book, Fearless (thank goodness I was already bald). That book also inspired a post about heroes that has been my most read post (Why Do We Need Heroes?)

Today I'm reviewing his latest book, Offworld. I've already posted about it here.

Why the introduction?

Yesterday I gave the synopsis of the book. He starts the book off with an amazing sequence as the astronauts who are returning from the first manned-mission to Mars survive a crash landing on re-entry. The three men and one woman team set off from Kennedy Space Center to Houston, where a mysterious beacon of light is the only clue they have to the disappearance of the human race. They encounter no one, save an anomalous young woman named Mae with an empty personal history.

The opening, as mentioned, is dynamic. The pace of the book doesn't rest much, as the team survives one harrowing event after another on their way to Houston, finally realizing someone must be out there opposing them. Slowly personal details of the characters slip out, as he continues to weave the tale. The action continues until the big climax in Houston. Robin knows how to keep pages turning.

Unfortunately, Offworld had a lot of letdown to me from his previous books. The characters didn't have much backstory to make them really standout. There's the brave commander with a secret, the loyal and longsuffering first officer, the steady yet mysterious specialist, and the hotshot, hot-tempered pilot. That sums up the main characters.

The set-up was so huge (the disappearance of the human race), it was hard to account for everything in the end. The cause of it all smacks too much of a MacGuffin device, too contrived to really hold up the story. I know Robin is a big fan of the TV show Lost, and I know nothing of the show, but I think he may be trying to write to that type of fan with this story.

Another aspect of the story that came across as weak was the setting. No area really stood out, and Robin did a good job of this in the Dominion Trilogy even though that series bounced around so much. The book is set in 2033, but there wasn't a lot of new technology that punched up the story.

I enjoyed the story to a degree. Robin is a talented suspense writer not afraid of big ideas and challenges. Not every attempt works though. I started out discussing how much I have enjoyed Robin Parrish in the past because I fully intend on following his projects in the future. This book is a decent sci-fi/near future adventure with faults that keep it from really taking off. Unfortunately, I think I had high expectations from before. That might be the problem. I wanted this to be a 5 star book, but it hit me as more of a 3-3.5 star book. Still enjoyable, but not a home run.

If you want other opinions, see the other posters listed at Becky Miller's blog. Keep an eye on Mr. Parrish, because I expect the unexpected from him in the future, and will continue to look out for his next projects.


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