Impact

September 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

impactImpact by Rob Boffard

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It’s not really a spoiler that this book takes place on Earth. The title of the book suggests it, and if you read the back cover blurb, you’ll know for certain. It makes sense that the trilogy takes us there — Boffard has been hinting at it since the first book — but it strikes me as odd that the catchphrase on the cover is “In space, there are no second chances…”. Why not “On Earth, there are no second chances…”? It’s not a spoiler, after all.

Impact concludes the story of Riley Hale, who crash-lands on Earth after the events of Zero-G. She crashes apart from her shipmates, and spends part of the story trying to find them. While she’s doing that, her surviving shipmates are finding troubles of their own, after tracing the source of the radio message that drew them back to Earth in the first place.

Boffard utilizes short microchapters in this book, as he did with the two preceding ones. I like this style, since it keeps the story moving forward, and makes it harder to stop reading, since it’s easy to justify reading two or three more pages before, say, going to sleep. I found that the microchapters worked best here, though, since Boffard finally started flitting about among his main characters more equally (though Riley still gets the most attention), shifting from Riley to Okwembu to Prakesh and then back through them again. It keeps the tension high, since the reader will have to wait a few more pages before seeing how a scene will end. In previous books, the chapters would end on a high point, and then jump right into the next chapter with its immediate resolution; Boffard avoids that here, and the story improves because of it.

The story continues to strain credibility with me. I forgot to mention in my Zero-G review that Riley had bombs in her knees, which didn’t prevent her from running, nor did her immediately waking from the surgery and having to run halfway across the station. Within just a few hours, she’s performing high-kicks and breaking people’s jaws with her feet, with freshly-stitched incisions in the backs of her knees providing no problems. Sure, she has painkillers, and suffers a few aches in her knees, but overall she’s moving around as well as Elizabeth Shaw did in Prometheus after having abdominal surgery, and I couldn’t believe it. It happens in Impact, too. In one case, the crew in the escape ship aims for Alaska, and after entering the atmosphere earlier than they expected and losing control of the ship on re-entry, they still manage to hit their target close enough to count.

I also had some problems believing what some of the characters do in the story. A complaint I had about the previous books was how Boffard had his characters react however was necessary to keep his story moving, and I found that in Impact, as well. I can’t go into specifics without giving too much of the story away, but a critical decision one of the characters makes in the last third of the novel goes against everything they believed in the previous chapter. Boffard makes an effort to give us some of the difficulties the character goes through before making the decision, but it didn’t feel like enough to me. Why create such a principled character if they can waffle like that on such an important choice?

The characterization overall felt weak, but I can let it slide some since the book is more about plot than character. That being said, I’ve read books that have both, so I know it can be done. Even the characters with so much to lose feel flat, when we should have more of a connection to them. Boffard has a habit of glossing over large chunks of the story that seem pretty important, which I think plays into how I feel about his characters. He’ll jump from a riveting scene with a lot of tension to its immediate conclusion, robbing the reader of the chance to feel concern for the characters. How can we make that connection if we never worry for them?

Impact is entertaining, as much as either Tracer or Zero-G was. They don’t break new ground, and they won’t leave a lasting impression on the readers, but for engaging science-fiction thrillers, they work well enough. They lack the emotional impact of books like The Martian, namely because Boffard’s characters don’t quite hit the mark, but they’re compelling. They’re solid beach reads, but not much more than that.

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