Monthly Archives: May 2021

PROJECT HAIL MARY

The man opens his eyes and finds himself strapped to a strange hospital bed. His naked body has electrodes plastered head to toe and tubes infiltrating every orifice. His “nurse” is a pair of robotic arms; the voice, feminine, with an emotionless drone. With sleep heavy eyes he scans the room and sees mummified remains in the other two beds. It seems he’s been “asleep” a long time. He doesn’t know how long because he doesn’t remember anything including his name.

After freeing himself, he stumbles around in search of someone or something to explain his circumstances.  Stunned he discovers he is completely alone on a space ship hurdling through space with no idea how he got there or why.

Suddenly a neuron fires in his head, and he has a blip of memory. He is in a coffee shop in San Francisco. He’s reading an email from the Pulkovo Observatory in Russia soliciting theories to explain why a line of infrared emissions are leaving the sun, dimming it, and heading toward Venus in a widening arc.

“Apparently my brain decided it was critical that I remember that email. Not trivial things like my own name.”

As Ryland Grace puts the puzzle together, he asks himself, “Why have I, a Junior High School science teacher ended up on a space ship? ” We learn, in a highly technical and scientific manner, that his presence on the ship wasn’t exactly voluntary but necessary. The sun is losing energy rapidly to some unknown space algae they named Astrophages. As a result, Earth faces a rapidly developing ice age leading to extinction of all life in the near future.  Quoting Martin Luther King, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

When he puts it all together, Grace makes a decision. His death is a foregone conclusion. Might as well see if he can save the Earth before that happens. And in his search for an answer to save the world, he finds he isn’t as alone as he thought.

Revealing any more will spoil the story. I will give a heads up. This is a science fiction novel. It has a lot of technical jargon and space science stuff. Understanding and comprehending that material not my strong suit. I stuck to the pathos, ingenuity, jerry rigging, loneliness, entertainment, witty sequences, and humor that our reluctant and inexperienced astronaut provided. Space geeks seem to have a harder time accepting the plot. I did not feel I lost anything by skimming through the equations and astro-geek speak. To me, the heart of the story had a richer more personal message – loyalty and friendship – that left me cheering at the unexpected ending. I really enjoyed the book. (The Martian remains my favorite though.)

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WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS

supreme court justice in office

Supreme Court Justice Howard Winn has a degenerative brain disease that is killing him. With his remaining lucid moments, he has unearthed a dark secret about an important case currently being heard by the Supreme Court. He knows he doesn’t have long to live and he hopes his complex plan to pass the secret to a trusted person will work.

The case involves the merger of an American biotech company with a genetics company from India. The Court is believed to be heading toward a 4-4 voting deadlock with Justice Winn the swing vote. The current term of the Supreme Court ends soon and the two companies involved in the international merger need it to be approved now to avoid financial ruin. Those hoping the merger will fail are putting their money on Justice Winn’s incapacity or death before he can make that swing vote.

With Justice Winn’s health rapidly failing, he requires a home healthcare nurse. He suspects she is an informant monitoring the status of his mental and physical decline presumably for the autocratic President of the United States. murderer shadowOne evening she finds the unconscious Justice gasping for breath, in a moment of sympathy, she disregards her orders to immediately report changes in his health to her minders and then let nature takes it course without medical intervention. She calls for an ambulance before she reports that Justice Winn is near death. With the Justice still alive but hospitalized in a permanent coma, Nurse Lewis turned over the apple cart that will lead to mayhem in the underworld of politics and international relations.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court informs Justice Winn’s law clerks of his dire prognosis. One of his young law clerks, Avery Keene, is struggling to balance financially draining issues with her alcoholic mother against the demands of her blooming high stress legal career. When she learns of Justice Winn’s health decline, she also learns he has chosen her to become his legal guardian responsible for his final health decisions and with his power of attorney resolving all of his other personal matters. If she thought she had enough on her plate, she ain’t seen nothing yet.

plate spinners

Stacey Abrams, the erudite political wizard, pushes Avery Keene into impossible and deadly situations that has the reader overwhelmed with governmental acronyms and master level chess moves. The good guys and the bad guys create such chaos in this highly complex plot it will make your head spin trying to keep up. Great reading. Political junkies will love it!

Stacey AbramsPolitical Powerhouse, Stacey Abrams, is known for her political activism and dedication to universal suffrage. She is a lawyer specializing in tax law and has published numerous articles on that subject area. In her spare time she is a New York Times bestselling author of fiction. Her latest work, her first political thriller will be published in May, 2021. I am honored to receive an advanced reading copy from Doubleday and Netgalley.

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