Official Review: Happenstance by Philip William Sheehan

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Latest Review: Happenstance by Philip William Sheehan

Official Review: Happenstance by Philip William Sheehan

Post by ViziVoir » 13 Nov 2019, 12:04

[Following is an official review of "Happenstance" by Philip William Sheehan.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Happenstance by Phil Sheehan is a hybrid of the science fiction and action genres (known in some circles as a techno-thriller). It follows Blake, a member of an anti-terrorist squad, as he embarks upon a mission to the edge of the solar system to learn more about and potentially make contact with a mysterious alien craft. His allies include the international members of his craft's crew, his team back on Earth, and a group of astronauts embarking on a separate mission that involves the recovery of an alien probe from Mars. Of course, there are also many people who want him to fail, whether to prevent the United States from making contact with aliens or simply to claim the discovery for themselves.

This book's greatest strength is, by far, its action scenes. It uses spacecraft as an extremely vivid backdrop, with conflicts and trials that could only happen in space. This all culminates in an extremely satisfying finale, which both ties up the anti-terrorist themes of the book and delivers an exciting, nerve-wracking conclusion. It's rare that I think a story truly deserves the thriller moniker, but this is certainly one of them.

The characterization is somewhat lackluster, though. Nearly all of the characters are practical-minded military men, and the only two female main characters are both linguists, for some reason. This lack of variety was occasionally grating, though the plentiful action and intrigue meant that it wasn't too distracting. The dialogue is realistic, too, and the writing style itself is generally effective. In addition, the book is well-edited, with only a handful of minor grammatical errors.

The narrative sometimes includes information that is, frankly, both boring and unnecessary. A character even recites a nearly word-for-word synopsis of the Wikipedia article about G-type main series stars, made even more jarring by the fact that they are an alien, so they probably wouldn't classify stars the same way as humans. There are also no female astronauts, despite NASA's nearly 50-50 gender split, an unrealistic detail which stands out next to the thorough research done in other areas.

Ultimately, I think the thriller aspects of this book carry it so well that it deserves 3 out of 4 stars. Despite its flaws, it's still a gripping action novel with well-integrated science fiction elements. For readers who prize excitement above all else, this is a great choice. If you enjoy more esoteric science fiction concepts or complex character interactions, it might not be the best book for you.

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Post by kandscreeley » 15 Nov 2019, 20:04

I'm so bummed that there aren't any female astronauts. Are we not smart enough?! Despite that, the story sounds interesting to me. It's right up my alley. Do I want to read it with the unfortunate characterizations, though? I'm not sure. Thanks.
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Post by Juliet+1 » 17 Nov 2019, 20:25

I'm boycotting MCP books right now, maybe forever. The world has changed, and this author needs to get with it. Thanks for a very helpful review! :D

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Post by CherylTegan7 » 23 Nov 2019, 04:48

The plot definitely sounds intriguing, but the less-than-stellar characters might be a deal breaker. Good writing can pull readers in- even if the plot or characters aren't exceptional- though it might not be enough for 'me' to make it all the way through. Nice review

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Post by kdstrack » 25 Nov 2019, 08:51

I wondered if the linguists were needed to be able to talk with the aliens? But it looks like they can read and recite Wikipedia! The recovery of the alien probe on Mars is an interesting development. Thanks for the recommendation.

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