Book Review: Specific Impulse by Charles Justiz

Hey all…

What do you get when you cross Near Earth Objects (NEOs), two ex-military tactical and scientific experts, Las Vegas criminal organizations, an amazingly successful assassin, and a talking machine intelligence named FRED? You get one heck of a wild ride written by a real-life rocket scientist who also just happened to fly more than 15,000 hours for the Air Force and NASA. If you like amazing details, likeable characters, and thrillers by Robin Cook or Michael Crichton, you have to check out Specific Impulse by Charles Justiz.

My journey started with the first few chapters of the book that are available on Justiz’ website – CharlesJustiz.com. By the end of chapter 4, I was hooked enough that I knew I needed to read more. Those first chapters introduce you to scientist Carin Gonzales, former submarine commander Jake Sabio, and assassin with an agenda Antonio Crubari. Gonzales and Sabio manage to survive a strange explosion over the huge meteor crater near Winslow, Arizona… an explosion that mysteriously led to the deaths of everyone else at the crater at the time…

Things only get stranger for Carin and Jake from there as they start manifesting new abilities such as the ability to slow down combat and see minute details or even being able to smell minute traces of chemicals in the air around them that normal people would never notice. Add to that the head of a covert action squad with ties to Las Vegas crime and a poor FBI agent and his team who always seem to be a step behind and you’d have a strong science-based thriller already.

But Justiz doesn’t stop there. By the end of the book, there’s a third member of the Carin/Jake team named FRED who just happens to be a sentient computer who can help them out of numerous jams and a NEO that just might be more than it appears to be. All of these threads weave to a spectacular climax that’s only major flaw is that this is the first book of a planned trilogy and dang if the next book isn’t out yet!

Since Michael Crichton passed away, there have been no new science-based thriller writers who have really stepped up to wow me. Justiz not only has a grasp of how to make complex topics such as determining where the object that explodes above the crater came from or how the Doppler shift works…

The Doppler shift was the way you could tell when a train went by. The frequency of the sound suddenly shifts much lower, but Jake had it all wrong. Carin was shaking her head. “There’s no way the Doppler could have shifted. You’ll only hear a Doppler shift in the first place if some object changes in motion relative to you. This thing was coming at us the whole time, so the Doppler can’t even shift once, much less twice…”

Justiz also has a great grasp of working humor into his writing. The exchanges between Carin and Jake are full of sarcasm and many of the characters the pair run into, including the computer, add to the wry amusement scattered throughout. I absolutely loved Chief Tuckman, the police chief in a tiny Idaho town with an airstrip. The main pair help out Tuckman realize he’s in love with the diner owner at the airstrip. And you may be thinking “what’s romance got to do with a thriller”? But believe me when I say it works and provides a bit of comic relief along the way.

Somehow Specific Impulse manages to weave a compelling story with plausible science and great characters you can relate to, leaving you wanting more by the end. If you like science-based thrillers, be sure to check out Charles Justiz’ Specific Impulse. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the book, but now I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one in the trilogy!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Be sure to pick up a copy of these great books at Barnes & Noble!

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Book Review: Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Hey there…

When you start a book with a short first chapter, you’d better make it memorable. For Patient Zero author Jonathan Maberry introduces us to our hero, Joe Ledger, with two sentences:

“When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.”

From that point forward, I was hooked. Joe Ledger is a detective in Baltimore who’s spent the last year and a half involved in a task force comprised of various police departments and Federal agencies. The task force was assigned to keep tabs on a group of terrorists that may have been attempting to smuggle in some type of bioweapon. After 9/11, this is a scary, yet possible scenario I’m sure has been played out by many law enforcement personnel around the country.

When he gets picked up by a group of men with FBI credentials and taken to see a guy simply known as “Mr. Church”, he enters a whole different world. And there things start to get weird for Ledger. The trip turns out to be an interview for a federal agency that doesn’t exist – the Department of Military Sciences or DMS for short – and in order to get the job, he has to subdue a prisoner.

However, the prisoner turns out to be one of the terrorists he killed during a warehouse raid by the task force he was on. And though he was very dead (Ledger made sure) at the warehouse, this suspected terrorist was still trying to kill Ledger in an interview room – zombie style. That’s right – reanimated flesh intent on eating you and infecting you so you too become a member of the zombie army…

Maberry manages to do something I didn’t think was actually possible. He gave zombies a plausible reason for existing. And then he gives the secret to a group of terrorists intent on jihad.

In case you’re wondering, Ledger isn’t alone when he fights the zombies and terrorists. Mr. Church has an entire team of scientists and a small army working for him, including Major Grace Courtland of the British SAS, whom we become acquainted with.

I really don’t want to spoil the fun for you beyond saying I was hooked by this book from beginning to end. All too often when an author tries to merge the fantastic with aspects of the “real world,” we end up sacrificing something on either end to make the pieces fit together. Maberry managed to use the real world as a springboard to bring in zombies, neatly sidestepping the issues by using real science, real weapons, and real tactics to face the evils of bio-terrorism.

In addition, Maberry manages to work in some very funny scenes and quirks for his characters. For instance, Mr. Church always has cookies of various types with him – in his office or in meetings – and throughout the book Ledger munches on different cookies depending on the mood he’s in.

Another example of Maberry’s humor comes out in how he names his characters. One of the character’s names is “Bunny Rabbit” and the exchange goes like this as he introduces himself to Ledger…

“Bunny Rabbit, Force Recon, sir.”

“My last name is Rabbit. Everyone calls me Bunny.”

“It gets worse sir. My first name’s Harvey.”

In the story, the bad guys are bad. The good guys are good — most of them anyway. And along the way you keep wondering if Ledger will make it out alive from some of the situations he finds himself in. Suffice it to say he survives and I’ll be curious to see what Maberry has in store for Ledger and the rest of the DMS in the future.

The subtitle for Patient Zero is “A Joe Ledger Novel,” which implies to me that there will be other Joe Ledger novels. If so, sign me up. I want to see where Maberry takes his world next.

Be sure to check out Patient Zero at your favorite bookstore or online retailer. It’s great for summer reading, especially if you like zombies!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up Patient Zero at your favorite local bookstore or at Amazon:

p.p.s. Also pick up the Zombie Survival Guide if you’re interested!

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Book Review: The Chameleon Conspiracy by Haggai Carmon

Hey there…

Even James Bond would probably have a hard time chasing down The Chameleon. Haggai Carmon’s agent Dan Gordon chases The Chameleon around the world by following money and clues, eventually uncovering a terror plot that is much larger than any single person.

Do you think of international finance or fraud investigation as being interesting? Neither did I. How about a fraud investigator for the US Department of Justice with ties to Mossad? Ok, now we’re getting warmer. Now what happens if we add in a terror plot with sleeper cells in the United States? Now I’m hooked.

For the last 20 years, author Haggai Carmon has held a number of intriguing jobs: international attorney, undercover intelligence operative for a number of U.S. federal agencies, husband, father, and author of the Triple Identity and The Red Syndrome, the first two Dan Gordon novels. Now with The Chameleon Conspiracy, he’s done an amazing job weaving the complex areas of money laundering and fraud investigation with international intrigue to make a compelling, page-turning story.

Agent Dan Gordon, over the course of a number of months, travels from the United States to Australia, Europe, and the Middle East to try and track down a mysterious Albert C. Ward III who bilked money from a number of investors throughout the US. His investigation eventually finds him working with the FBI, CIA and Mossad as they attempt to discover just how deep the conspiracy goes…

I’m a huge spy novel fan, but have to admit I haven’t read any for a while. The last one I read was Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, a James Bond novel set during the 1960s at the height of the Cold War. The Chameleon Conspiracy takes place in the present political climate, using our post 9/11 world to take us to dangerous hubs of terrorism and anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere.

It’s nearly impossible to review this book without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that if you’re looking for an entertaining, but intricate spy novel, I can’t recommend The Chameleon Conspiracy enough. Now I have to go find the other Dan Gordon books by Carmon to catch up! Find it at your favorite local bookseller or online retailer.

–Fitz

p.s. Click below to check out this and other Haggai Carmon books at Amazon!

    

 

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