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IMPACT, Douglas Preston’s new novel is one part thriller, one part science fiction, although it falls into the latter distinction as near future SF. I’ve been a fan of his work with his writing partner, Lincoln Child, not to mention their solo efforts, for a good many years. Singly, or together, they have never failed to give me enjoyable reads. What more can you ask of any writer?

Three separate narratives weave through the early part of the book before they gradually start to merge into a helluva ride.

Wayman Ford, ex-CIA, is sent on a mission into Cambodia. He’s to find a source of strange gemstones infused with radioactive material. Brief exposure won’t kill you, but made into jewelry and worn will kill after a while. That’s the story he’s told.

A flaming meteor plunges across the sky across Maine and falls into the sea somewhere. Two young women, Abbey and Jackie, know something no one else seems to, that the meteor didn’t hit the sea. A weather buoy didn’t record anything but normal wave activity at the time. There were a number of small islands in the direction it headed. Now they set out to find the right one with intention of auctioning a REAL meteor on EBay.

A scientist finds an impossible source of gamma rays coming from the direction of Mars. He’s fired, then found murdered, head almost decapitated. He’d smuggled his data out on a hard drive device and mailed it to a colleague. When he tries to tell someone, he’s fired. He pours over the data and photographs from a Mars orbiter and makes an astounding discovery.

Deep in a crater, something unnatural lurks. It appears to have been activated by the Mars orbiter’s photographing it. Time is starting to count down.

Abbey and Ford end up together when Ford comes to Maine looking for the impact crater. He’d come to suspect something of what was going on, though not enough to guess the truth.

Someone else knows though. A killer is looking for that hard drive.

IMPACT moves briskly along as the pair start uncovering the truth. Abbey is an ex-astronomy student who’d dropped out of Princeton. Her knowledge and Ford’s expertise help them continually outwit the killer as she deciphers the data and locates this anomaly as the Earth is apparently under attack.

Loved this one and though fairly long, 364 pages, it read very fast. I couldn’t put it down. Well, it was hard anyway!