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Book Review: Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

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Why will everyone in America — all 300 million people — make their way to Yuma, Arizona in about 70 years’ time, only to die there? The press will call the event Bleak December, a time when the world ends. 

It is up to Paige Campbell, Travis Chase and  Bethany Stewart to figure out how and why in this thrilling, action-driven novel. But others know all the answers already, and they will do anything to bring about doomsday.

Ghost Country begins with a smart conceit — what if alien technological artifacts arriving from a mysterious anomaly known as the Breach gave people access to spectacular devices, including those that can reveal the future? They might discover a sinister conspiracy to doom the world, for one.

Lee has created an excellent setup for a franchise of action thrillers centering on the various alien artifacts that come out of the Breach. The quality of his imagination and his writing marks him as heir-apparent to such science thriller masters as James Rollins and Dean Koontz.

Like Rollins or Koontz, Lee imagines a compelling what-if around which he builds his thrill ride. In Ghost Country, this what-if centers on the possibility of knowing the future. Paige Campbell, one of the Tangent team members studying the Breach (you might want to read Lee’s first novel, The Breach for more background,) has used one such device to discover a doomed future.

True to form of this type of story, there is a malignant conspiracy involved, and they have operatives everywhere. So when she and her boss come to Washington to show the device to the president, their motorcade is attacked. Paige survives the hailstorm of bullets, only to be dragged off to a secret lair of the conspirators. There are intimations that the president might have ordered the hit.

Former Tangent team member Travis Chase lives a cover life of a low-wage warehouse worker, a fate he has purposely brought on himself in order to avoid a prediction made by another Breach device, the Whisperer, about himself and the fate of millions of people. But his boring existence is interrupted by hacker Bethany Stewart, asking for his help in finding Paige. Together they work to free Paige and then to figure out the vast conspiracy threatening the world.

The book is not without some problems. There is not enough context in the beginning to let the reader know which kind of book this is going to be, and this lack of clarity may throw not a few casual readers for a loop. Reading it without any idea of the events that have transpire in Lee’s earlier novel, The Breach, for example, I was under the impression that the anomaly or whoever, whatever, was responsible for it had some role to play in the doomed future that Paige discovered. I imagine that some readers might have the same impression.

There is, after all, every indication that this is a science fiction novel about the end of the world in the first half. When it became clear that a much more mundane explanation of the disaster is involved, however, I felt the tug of disappointment: this is not a science fiction novel about the end of the world, it is a science fiction thriller in which alien technology is a means of generating action. And there is plenty of thrilling action here, and the tempo becomes frenetic toward the end as Paige and Travis work to save the world.

Despite the initial focus problem, what emerges is a great action thriller, and for anyone looking for a great read centering on mysterious technology, conspiracy and lots of action, Ghost Country is a sure bet. 

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About A. Jurek

A. Jurek is one of the editors at Blogcritics. Contact me at: a.jurek@blogcritics.org