Book Review: Ocean of Storms by Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: 47North (December 1, 2016)
Length: 400 pages
Impending apocalypse. A heart-pounding Space Race. Political thrills. Oceans of Storms has all this and more, and it is also a story made up of many different parts. With scenes and situations reminiscent of movies like Independence Day, Armageddon, or Jurassic Park, the book also felt to me a lot like a Hollywood summer blockbuster in prose form. Indeed, looking back at the notes I took while reading, the thing that kept cropping up in my comments and descriptions was the word “cinematic”.
It all began with the moon. But of course, when the massive electromagnetic pulse ripped across Earth, knocking out power globally, no one knew the cause. It wasn’t until later that scientists determined that the EMP originated from our planet’s closest neighbor, where a powerful explosion had exposed something buried deep beneath the lunar surface. Based on early findings and analysis, at the bottom of this newly created fissure is an extremely large and technologically advanced object that has been on the moon for at least two million years. Which means whatever it is, it couldn’t have been placed there by human beings. Moreover, the discovery was accompanied with a message: coordinates to a location somewhere on the vast lunar mare called the Ocean of Storms.
Not surprisingly, the news causes worldwide chaos and panic. In response, the US vows to launch a manned mission to the lunar coordinates to investigate the source of the power surge. Problem is, budget cuts over the years have gutted NASA’s space program, putting them far behind where they need to be to make that possible. Meanwhile, the Chinese are way ahead, sending rockets to survey the moon from orbit, though they lack the lander technology—technology that the US has. To prevent further widespread unrest, the two countries’ space programs have no choice but to team up amidst the burgeoning cold war between their governments because the answers on the moon are too important to let politics get in the way. Knowing as well that they might find the remnants of an ancient civilization, two American archaeologists and a Chinese forensic anthropologist also join the team in the hopes of finding out who or what might have been responsible for the mysterious signal.
Before I begin, I have a confession to make. Archaeology and Anthropology are my pet subjects and my college specializations so as soon as I saw that a couple of “maverick archaeologists” were among the main characters of this book, I knew I had to read it. Relatively speaking though, neither the scientific or technological aspects were really all that weighty here, but there’s certainly enough to tickle readers’ interests. I also found the story easy to get into, and I very much enjoyed the mashup of sci-fi elements together with the thrills and suspense.
I think if the authors had stayed on this course, the book would have been even more compelling. I loved how things started with a bang, and that burst of momentum was continued by the mystery of the discovery on the moon. As I mentioned before, there was also a cinematic quality to the story that I really enjoyed. Sure, the characters might not be all that deep, and the overall premise might be too farfetched or unconvincing, but I have I to say I didn’t mind too much. I picked up this book for the same reason millions flock to see the big-budget, special-effects laden films that dominate the box office every year—to be entertained. And for the most part, I think Ocean of Storms succeeded. Without giving away any spoilers, I would say the book only stumbled in the second half, when the story shifted away from the big action and suspense to focus instead on convoluted government conspiracies, dubious physics, and going a little too overboard with paleoanthropological theory.
To the book’s credit though, I never once found it boring. Suffice to say, I think the authors wanted Ocean of Storms to be the literary equivalent of the “big-budget, special-effects laden blockbuster” and had a boatload of great ideas to make it so, but ultimately they might have taken it a little too far. There’s just not enough room to make all these pieces fit together coherently, so while the end result is certainly captivating, it unfortunately also feels somewhat disjointed.
Still, in spite of my complaints, Ocean of Storms was a damn fun read and I do not regret the time I spent with it. I loved the concept, even if its execution was a bit off and the science was a little flimsy. Let’s just say you aren’t likely to be bowled over by its literary merits, but if you’re simply looking to kick back with an entertaining, high-octane sci-fi thriller, then you’ve come to the right place. Overall a really enjoyable, if at times flawed, read.