Original Books

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Offworld by Robin Parrish

Commander Chris Burke and his crew have been on Mars for over half a year. They have made headlines back on earth, and are now ready to return home to their families. But while in route back to the home planet, they lose contact with Houston.
When they reach the ground and exit the ship, no one is there to greet them.
They're all just gone.
There's not a sound to be heard or a soul to be seen. All the animals are gone too. Florida is barren.
All except for one teenage girl. She's apparently all that's left. Only she has no idea what happened either.
One of the Mars crew obtains access to a live video satellite in geocentric orbit and decides to remotely explore the planet. He finds that it's not just Florida that's barren. It's the whole earth. The only thing that's left is a giant beacon of light over Texas.
Chris leads his crew, along with the girl, toward that beacon of light, believing that it has something to do with the disappearances. What they find is stunning.
You would think a book about an empty earth would be boring, but it isn't really. There is plenty of action, not just long descriptions of empty cities.
Also, the believable and imperfect characters sustain the book and make it realistic. Normally you don't find good characters in speculative books, but Robin Parrish is the exception.
The one drawback that keeps this book from being five stars is the explanation of why everyone is gone. There's a small plot hole filling what would have been a large plot hole. But at least Robin did his best.
The villain isn't your typical speculative villain. He isn't a mad scientist or a supernatural creature. He's just a normal man with issues, like we all have. In some sense, he isn't even a villain at all.
The chapters are named, but they aren't normal. They're very cryptic and abstract. But this is good because the chapter names we see these days are uncreative.
The girl they find plays a huge part in the plot, bigger than it seems at first. She is one of the most original plot devices ever created. She is mostly what keeps this book on the Elite List.
The idea behind this book is similar to that of the idea behind the Dominion Trilogy. The whole purpose is similar. I wonder if Robin has something stuck in his head. Or maybe he's trying to tell us something...
While it doesn't have the five star calibration that the Dominion Trilogy had, it's still Elite. Robin Parrish is still one of the best authors on the market.
4 stars

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