4 out of 4 stars
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Robert, an intern at the Johnson Space Center, discovers and reports an unknown object on Mars, and a spaceship bound for Mars is given a command to investigate it. Another unknown object also pops up on Pluto and has to be investigated. This raises questions about the relation between these objects and arouses curiosity about possible life forms in space. Major Blake of the Navy SEAL is sent into space by the U.S. government and teams up with operatives from other countries. Together, they head into space aboard Armstrong I, but they soon discover they are not alone. Terrorist attacks erupt in space and back on Earth, and the chances of survival are slim for the space explorers, the U.S., and humankind. Do the space explorers return from their mission? How are the terrorists handled? Do they engage other life forms in space?
Happenstance by Phil Sheehan was an incredible, satisfying, and enthralling read for me. Not all space adventure stories work for me, but this one definitely did. Through the characters and unfolding events, the author incorporated themes of bravery, patriotism, religious extremism, and the art of war. I enjoyed the unpredictable nature of the plot. A few examples of this unpredictability include the suspicion that one of the operatives aboard Armstrong I was a terrorist, how one of Blake's elite team members was kidnapped, and the bombings by Islamic extremists.
I'm a massive fan of sci-fi and loved the storyline of this book. I would say, though, that there were some dialogues and events I didn't fully comprehend because of my lack of sufficient physics knowledge. This isn't a dislike as it has more to do with me than the author's story.
Sheehan's powers of description were remarkable. He created a believable world and put sufficient effort into the story's character development. This was evident in the way he portrayed the skills of some members of Blake's elite team and Major, too: Blake's leadership ability, Harry's intelligence, and Patty's mastery of languages, to mention a few. While the plot was primarily focused on the happenings in space and back on Earth, the author found space to infuse a little romance in the story, which was a nice touch. It was interesting to read about Sean and his puppy love for Patty, the linguist. This story was fast-paced and had enough action-packed scenes to keep me engaged.
I couldn't find anything worth disliking about the book. It was action-packed, had a well-developed plot, and was professionally edited. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars and recommend it to lovers of sci-fi stories that incorporate lots of space adventures and extraterrestrial characters.
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