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 four, 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!