4 out of 4 stars
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Did you know that the Panama Canal was considered one of mankind’s top engineering achievements in 1914? It was the biggest earth dam with a 50-mile long passage. Were you aware that its capacity even doubled when an eight-year expansion project was completed in 2016? The ambitious feat was initially scheduled for completion in 2014, the Canal's centennial anniversary, but was delayed due to financial hurdles and labor disputes. And did you know that I only found out about all of these after reading The Expansion by Christoph Martin? The facts were not actually in the book, but the writing team wrote a very believable story that I couldn't help but do further research about the topic.
Wait. Writing team? Yes, you read it right. Christoph Martin is the writing team of Christoph Martin Zollinger and Libby O’Loghlin. The writing duo traveled to different locations, interviewed various people and did a lot of research in order to gain inspiration and real-life experience in their writing process. Christoph’s first-hand experience in legal, military, corporate and private enterprise in Panama was complemented by Libby’s award-winning writing expertise. No wonder the plot they created seemed so close to reality that it’s both exciting and frightening at the same time.
Imagine yourself landing the job of your dreams in the beautiful tropical country of Panama. Wouldn’t that be great? The protagonist of The Expansion, Max Burns, had all these luxuries when his technical design won him the bid for a once in a lifetime project in Panama, a construction that was so huge it had a direct impact on international maritime trade. Starting his head engineer assignment, he was immediately taken into a world of glamor with international diplomacy and political prestige. But conspiracy, corruption, sabotage and murder all turned Max’s world upside down. He felt betrayed by his old high school friend, Godfredo Roco, who convinced him to join this ambitious project. He had no choice but to trust a scientist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, his new found love, Karis Deen. But there’s more to Karis that meets the eye because she’s part of a team that could either help Max swim out of this shark tank or help bring him down deep.
Though most sub-characters were only briefly introduced, they added color in this shark tank game. People from all walks of life were portrayed. Some would trade anything and everything to get what they want. Others would just be satisfied with the simplicities of life. Deep and shallow relationships were also depicted ranging from brief encounters at a social event to a dysfunctional yet unbreakable father-son partnership. The competition for international power also gave a peek into the minds of patriotic people who are willing to do the unthinkable for his/her country.
The book opened with scenes reminding me of spy films with a glamorous party and an explosive tragedy. I was immediately intrigued by the backstory of the characters. However, the following chapters turned into a slow read for me. I was taken into a world full of phone calls pulling strings followed by an array of casual and formal meetings. Then, by the middle of the book, the tempo accelerated with confrontations and revelations which led to a finale that left me hanging.
I was kind of tepid with the inconsistent pacing. As a fan of TV series like CSI, NCIS and Bones, I was waiting for more crime scene investigations and secret agent actions. I felt some details were somewhat superficial, and I was inclined to deduct one star for my rating. But after some consideration, I decided to give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
The unsteady pacing gave the story a unique flow. Going away with too much technical stuff made the book not too complicated. The C/T/M/H aspect of the book was not too deep, but it was just right for YA readers. Obviously, the abrupt ending made me hungry for more. And the exciting part is author Christoph is planning a trip to the Arctic which gave me something to look forward to for the upcoming book.
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