4 out of 4 stars
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The Expansion by Christoph Martin is a suspenseful novel that transports the reader to Panama City where several different countries compete to submit the winning bid for the Panama Canal Expansion project. The author details elements of international intrigue as each country tries to win the project. Max Burns is an engineer on the team from England. He joined the project at the request of Godfredo, his childhood friend. Godfredo’s father owns a concrete business and is anxious to have his team submit the winning bid.
Through the course of the book, the reader is exposed to espionage, betrayal, political side deals, international spies and greed. The high stakes bidding process is detailed and includes hundreds of millions of dollars for the winning team to complete the expansion project. Max and all of the other team members are forced to leave their homes and their families to move to Panama to work on their proposals. Max works with his team and interacts with other teams and scientists from the Smithsonian Institute who are also working on the project.
I found this book to be very interesting. The author included detailed information about the bidding process and the amount of work that goes into determining the appropriate price to bid for a project. I enjoyed learning the details of the process. The author also seemed very knowledgeable about the locations mentioned in the Panama City area which made the story authentic and credible. His writing style was never boring as he detailed the bid submission process and aftermath. As a reader, I felt like I was in the room when the bids were being read and the winner was announced.
The author created a sympathetic character in Max Burns. He was orphaned at a young age when his parents were killed in a helicopter crash. Max was taken to live with his uncle after his parents die. Max’s uncle is not wealthy or connected but is supportive to his nephew. The relationship the author creates between the two men is heart-warming and relatable.
This book contains many interesting relationships between characters and the author does admirable job of making these relationships seem authentic. Each of these connections are well-written and captivating. The relationship between Max and his friend Godfredo is realistic in that they are old school friends that are getting re-acquainted after a long period of time has passed. They identify with one another as the people they once were, but they are learning about each other as adults. The relationship between Godfredo and Paco is very complex. Paco pushes the boundaries in verbal and physical abuse of his son, but seems to want him to succeed in life. When Max interacts with his co-workers and the reader can get a glimpse of his true character as he tries to resolve personality conflicts and issues on a daily basis. Max has a strained relationship with his fiancé and her family at the beginning of the novel and the reader can watch as he interacts with women later in the book in conversations and situations where he is more comfortable.
In addition to the relationships between the characters, the author has created some interesting characters with depth. Max is a flawed character and is very sympathetic due to his background. Godfredo is interesting in that he is a confident and vibrant person that enjoys parties and being the center of attention, but he is also a victim of abuse by his father. Paco is an abusive egomaniac that will do anything to succeed. He doesn’t seem to really care about anyone, except himself and his business. His interest in his son seems to be limited to how he can benefit the business. The author also created strong female characters in Karis Deen who works for the Smithsonian and Alexandra Wong who works with Max on developing a bid. It is enjoyable to read strong female characters with intelligent storylines. The prostitute Sofia was not as well developed and I thought her character could have been expanded beyond the limited sexual nature emphasized in the book. She might have had an interesting back story or knowledge that could have added to her basically one-dimensional character.
I really enjoyed this book. The author added a large amount of detail to the locations in the book as well as to character development. The interactions he created between the characters was interesting and entertaining. I found the book to be suspenseful and give it a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. The book appears to be professionally edited since I only found one grammatical error. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys dramatic and suspenseful books.
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