Tag Archives: Space Exploration

Review & Giveaway: The Last Pilot

The Last Pilot

The Last Pilot 
By Benjamin Johncock
(Picador USA, Hardcover, 9781250066640, July 7, 2015, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Amid the excitement of space exploration, one couple is forced to deal with a horrible tragedy and the aftermath that it leaves behind.

The Rest of It:

The story centers around Jim Harrison and his wife Grace. Jim is an Air Force test pilot in Muroc, California on a base which later becomes Edwards Air Force Base. He’s a member of the New Nine, which is the first group to fly manned missions to space. As you can imagine, this is a very exciting time for them all.

Grace is not your typical Air Force wife. She worries, but she seems to know deep down, that things will turn out okay. But things are not okay. Jim and Grace suffer a terrible tragedy and it’s threatening to tear them apart. Grace desperately needs Jim during this time, but Jim chooses to bury himself in work.  How can you help another person when your own grief is too heavy to bear?

I really liked this novel. The excitement of space exploration is what grabbed my attention initially, but this couple’s situation really stayed with me. Not to mention the casual mentions of real-life astronaut Jim Lovell and larger-than-life Pancho Barnes. Barnes, who seriously steals the show in this one, could be the subject of her own book. She runs a bar, flies an airplane and basically knows everyone and better yet, seems to know exactly what everyone needs.

This knack of hers comes in handy more than once.

This was a smooth read for me. Even without the use of quotation marks, the writing and dialogue flowed effortlessly. Yes, there might have been a little confusion on my part when more than one character had the same name (two Jims, two Graces) but I quickly figured out who was who.

Overall, I really enjoyed this debut from Benjamin Johncock and I would absolutely read his work again. Check out his website here.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy, check out the details below.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

This giveaway is for one copy of The Last Pilot and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person.  Giveaway closes on Sunday, July 26, 2015 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! (giveaway has closed!)


Source
: Review and giveaway copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: The Sparrow

The SparrowThe Sparrow
By Mary Doria Russell
Ballantine Books, Paperback, 9780449912553, September 1997, 448pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

This is one of those stories that innocently skips along and then delivers such a powerful punch to the gut, that you’ll want to forget what you’ve read as soon as you’ve read it.

The Rest of It:

I am not even going to attempt to describe the story to you in detail because that is half the adventure and this is definitely a novel you will want to experience on your own. I will say, that it’s about a newly discovered planet and the group sent to investigate it.

As you can imagine with a book like this, part of the suspense comes from WHAT is on the planet and how our group which includes Jesuit priests, a doctor, an engineer, an astronomer and an indentured computer specialist deals with what is thrown at them. And there is a lot thrown at them. Figuring out food and cultivating plants that they recognize is one challenge, determining the effects that the climate and environment have on their bodies is another challenge and really, just learning how to adapt to what they have in front of them is what keeps them busy much of the time.

What makes this an entertaining read is the group itself. Many were friendly back on Earth before their mission, so there is a lot of humor and well-placed sarcasm as everyone gets used to spending so much time together. They all fit, if that makes any sense even though many of them come from very different backgrounds.

But something terrible happens.

The story jumps around a bit between the before, during and after parts of the mission so very early on, you know that something horrible has happened and so this cake walk of visiting an unknown planet and the funny parts interspersed between the more serious issues, felt like I was being led along a very long plank and that any moment I would be plunged into the icy depths below. And that is EXACTLY what happens!

Everyone who reads this book says stuff like, “I feel totally wrung out”, “This book destroyed me” or “I cannot un-see what I’ve seen in my head.” I agree with these statements but what’s totally weird is that I saw it all coming and NONE if it really shocked me and yet, because I was strung along for so long, it hit me HARD. I read this for the #sparrowRAL (read along) and I finished it when others were still reading so when the air was sucked out of me, I had no one to turn to! I finished it at work too which added to my overall anxiety over the ending.

As far as science fiction goes, it felt very current to me even though much of it takes place in 2060. There is a sequel, Children of God, which I did not know about until after I finished The Sparrow but I feel absolutely no need to read the second book.

Things you should know:

  • Contains heavy religious themes but mostly deals with the question of whether or not God exists
  • Packs a punch and you will be a little ill after reading it. Make sure you have someone to discuss it with or you will lose your mind.
  • It takes a long time to get into the story (IMO). Lots of set-up and back and forth.
  • The idea of interacting with an alien race and how it’s handled here will fascinate you.
  • If you are at all interested in societal structure, you will have loads to consider.
  • After finishing the book, I suggest you gaze at pictures of cute puppies and kittens for a day or two because the images that Russell paints will be stuck in your mind for a very long time.

I can’t say that it’s a favorite of mine but it is a book that will stay with me forever and I am glad that I finally read it. Thanks Trish for hosting the read along. I probably would not have picked it up had you not chosen it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.