Book Review: The Effort by Claire Holroyde

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Effort by Claire Holroyde

Mogsy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 12, 2021)

Length: 368 pages

Author Information: Website

The Effort is a book about a killer asteroid hurtling towards the Earth, threatening to wipe out the entire human race. Now, a team of scientists have assembled in order to find a way to blow it off course. But if you’re heading into this book expecting a big, noisy, hyper-jaunty high-octane action thriller like Armageddon, this isn’t that kind of story. Nor is it quite like the feel-good, inspirational and heartwarming kind of apocalyptic tale that brings humanity together. It’s pretty depressing, actually. And a lot of it isn’t even about the asteroid.

The plot begins with an introduction to our main characters, all from disparate parts of the world but are united in one goal: to stop UD3, the large comet spotted near Jupiter’s orbit that is estimated to impact Earth in less than a year. Codenamed “The Effort”, the mission is headed by Dr. Ben Schwartz of NASA, who travels to French Guiana with his girlfriend Amy Kowalski to meet up with the rest of the team which includes China’s Dr. Zhen Liu and UN interpreter Love Mwangi. Try as they might to keep the operation a secret though, the news of the comet is eventually leaked, causing widespread panic across the globe.

Meanwhile, aboard a Coast Guard polar icebreaker heading north, photographer Jack Campbell travels with Mara Gutiérrez and her fellow marine biologists to study and document the natural beauty of Arctic. Also on board is Gustavo Wayãpi, a Nobel Laureate poet from Brazil who has come for inspiration, but instead finds his mind troubled with thoughts of his recently murdered brother. As news of UD3 reach them, however, the passengers wonder what this would mean for the chances of survival now that chaos worldwide has cut them off from civilization and help. Questions abound about the uncertain fate of loved ones, especially in cities where the mass hysteria has caused the greatest damage. In New York, we get to see some of this fear and confusion unfold on the ground through the eyes off a woman named Rivka, facing the dangers alone while her girlfriend is away, helping The Effort save the world.

Similar to books like Station Eleven, The Space Between the Stars, or Good Morning, Midnight, this one uses sci-fi themes as a device to explore the intricacies of human nature rather than being interested in the actual sci-fi elements themselves. As someone not entirely prepared for a story like this, I think I was left a bit disappointed. This is Claire Holroyde’s debut so I don’t want to nitpick too much, but at times The Effort feels more like a generic mainstream fiction novel dressed up just enough with talk of spaceships and comets to qualify it for the science fiction category, helping it stand out. Fans of more traditional sci-fi, however, will probably find it lacking, and some might even find it boring.

Personally, I found some sections of this novel tedious. There are no groundbreaking ideas here, just a collection of character studies and personal stories that rely on emotional appeal to carry the premise, and it is pretty heavy-handed on that front. That said, I don’t want to sell this book short. While none of it was really all that resonating or swept me off my feet, there’s still a decent story here. Once you realize where the author is going, it’s easier to get on board with the overall tone and style of the narrative. There’s a lot of flashback, as each character’s background is gradually developed and teased apart. Holroyde also wanted to show how different groups of people would react in different ways to the incoming comet, but this will be mostly going through the motions if you’re accustomed to reading apocalyptic fiction, though several of the characters’ experiences and scenarios were quite fascinating.

The best parts by far were from the perspective of those key players behind The Effort. It honestly wouldn’t break my heart if everything else was cut. With UD3 practically on Earth’s doorstep, and the deadline for anything to be done fast approaching, some of the novel’s most intense moments involved the game of diplomacy and negotiations on the world stage, struggling to keep a lid on the biggest secret in history while trying to convince other countries to cooperate at the same time. As impact day draws nearer, the team working around the clock become worn down by fatigue and stress, leaving the fate of the Earth’s with little hope.

Like I said, this is not a sunshine and rainbows kind of read. Leaving aside the news of the killer asteroid and the global unrest that follows—the food shortages, the killing and burning and looting—there are also themes of political strife, of living under bitter and violent conditions in places where human rights are practically nonexistent. The book might have been stronger if all these various threads had come together more coherently, but in the end, I think the push to have so many characters and the insistence to develop each of them equally turned out to be the book’s ultimate downfall. The threads got out of hand anyway, and I can’t say I felt all that satisfied even with the hammy epilogue.

Bottom line, this is not a sci-fi thriller and I would pass if you’re into more traditional escapism SFF, though the intimate human stories and the personal stakes make The Effort worth checking out—just don’t expect anything unprecedented as it treads more or less the same ground as similar apocalyptic novels.

28 Comments on “Book Review: The Effort by Claire Holroyde”

  1. So it’s not thrilling, interesting, uplifting, and the asteroid doesn’t even get a POV? 😞 I’ll probably skip it then. From the sound of it, I’m honestly surprised that you liked this as much as you did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh I saw this one over at Tammy’s blog, I think- or somewhere- and thought it sounded good! I like how you differentiate between two of the common tropes- the splashy big-budget feeling ones and the quieter, more introspective ones. 🙂 And while I’ve been tempted to read Station eleven and Good Morning Midnight (I haven’t read either yet) I can imagine I’d probably feel the same way- a little underwhelmed.

    This part I do like the sound of. “Questions abound about the uncertain fate of loved ones, especially in cities where the mass hysteria has caused the greatest damage. ” But even so, it does sound a little heavy handed in that respect. I think I’d need a little more of the SF. Still, this is good to know so I go into this one with the right expectations if I do read it.

    I do like that cover!


    • Yep, the book definitely had its moments! But it wasn’t really what I expected, and coupled with my knowledge and experience with books of the same type that were much better, this one just didn’t do anything for me! 😛


  3. but at times The Effort feels more like a generic mainstream fiction novel dressed up just enough with talk of spaceships and comets to qualify it for the science fiction category

    See, to me, a LOT of recent “sf” feels this way 😦

    I enjoyed this plot idea with When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide, but since When was published in 1933, well, there’s been plenty of time for people to forget it was ever written and think they’re the New Wunder Kid on the Blokk….

    *insert huge gigantic eye roll*


  4. While I was aware, from other reviews, that this was more a character study rather than an Armageddon-style adventure, and therefore prepared for a different kind of story, I’m a little concerned by your comment about about the heavy-handedness of the delivery, because given the grimness of the theme that might turn the novel into something of a depressing read…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  5. I did like this more than you did but I get all your points. Way too many threads and not enough focus. Also, I’m glad you mentioned the depressing element. It didn’t even occur to me until I read your review. I was surprised with the Station Eleven comparisons, it is NOTHING like that book. That had such a feel good, hopeful ending.


  6. As I’d mentioned on Tammy’s review this one had me thinking back to Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, though that one combined descriptions of what happens to the planet from the impact as well as studying how various groups of people might react. I enjoyed that one quite a lot, though I didn’t enjoy the more recent Seveneves by Neal Stephenson as much, and it was absolutely full of science. So I’m not sure how I’d fare with this one. But I like hearing different perspectives on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, that’s a shame, this one sounded so interesting to me! I don’t think I would like that this is a downer in some regards so I think I’ll pass on this one. Thanks for the review!


  8. I just read Tammy’s review for this one and whilst she enjoyed it more the ambitiousness of the book came across. Not a book that i’m currently in the mood for tbh, which I thought whilst reading Tammy’s review so good to have it seconded here by your mention of the slightly depressing feel.
    Lynn 😀


  9. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 01/16/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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