Books: Ghost Country

In Brief:  Patrick Lee’s Ghost Country, an X-Files-ish thriller, posits limited time travel against the mystery of planet-wide extinction event.

Pros:  Quick-moving story with plenty of action, gadgets, and dedication to details around the central sci-fi themes.

Cons:  Thriller-style and pace comes at the expense of strong characterization.  The central sci-fi premise involving global extinction may be a stretch for some.

Review:  Ghost Country is Patrick Lee’s follow up to Breach, the central premise of which involves the presence of an interdimensional portal or breach that suddenly appeared in Wyoming 35 years ago.  Nothing living can go through this breach, but every so often random objects fall into our world, and they usually contain some sort of advanced technology.

The government has kept this all highly secretive (of course) and created a research agency call Tangent that studies the breach objects and attempts (usually unsuccessfully) to reverse engineer them.

In Ghost Country, a pair of identical such gadgets arrive and head researcher at Tangent, Paige Campbell, and her team discover these gadgets are capable of projecting a man-sized two-way portal that leads to approximately 70 years in the future.

What they discover when they go through is some kind of mass extinction event has occurred.  Piles of bones, no humans present, and yet no signs of war or the mass panic associated with some kind of plague.  What’s worse, when Paige goes to D.C. to inform the President, he attempts to have her and her team killed.

This is where Travis Chase, ex-cop protagonist from the first book comes in.  Paige gets a message to him along with one of the gadgets.  Then the chase is on to rescue her and figure what has/will happen to humanity.

With two of these time-portal gadgets – one with the bad guys and one with the good guys – it makes for some highly entertaining hide and seek.  The time travel rules are simple – the gadgets lock to a relative time/date 70 years hence – and the scenes of an abandoned future are stark and eerie.

My only complaint involves the eventual explanation for the mass extinction event seemed out of whack.  It didn’t seem to fit – and I’m usually perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief with any novel.  Maybe the author’s meticulous and pain-staking explanations with some of the other sci-fi elements made this plot turn suffer by comparison.  Some readers will note that Travis and Paige sort of lack personality, but this isn’t unusual for the kind of Tom Clancy/Michael Crichton thriller-style Lee utilizes.

Bottom Line:  A good quick read with some interesting if somewhat flawed sci-fi themes.  Time-travel thrillers and the threat of mass extinction is always fun.

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