Ocean of Storms | Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown | 2016 (1 December) | 47North | 410p | Review copy | Buy the book
In the near future, a single moment changes everything. A catastrophic and mysterious event splits the surface of the Moon, opening a massive torn vent. The force of the explosion hits the Earth in the form of an enormous electromagnetic pulse that stops everything in its tracks – no power, no communication, nothing. Planes fall from the sky, people are isolated and frightened, everybody expects the worst. A cold war between America and China is about to reach the point of no return, with warships ready to strike, missiles armed, their targets selected. For a moment, as the lights turn back on, hostilities take a back seat as both nations try to find out the cause of the catastrophe but, when a signal from the moon suggests that forces neither natural nor human were behind it, a new space race is initiated as both countries compete to land on the Moon first.
In these uncertain days, nothing goes quite as planned, and it is soon clear that an uneasy, united mission is the answer to the problem of how to reach the Moon quickly and in one piece. But the crew comprises more than astronauts, there are archaeologists, too. Understanding what it is that has torn the Moon open will take all their skills. And all the time, an Earth on the brink of war watches and waits.
The moment I heard about Ocean of Storms I was so excited to read it. It sounded just like the kind of science fiction novel that I love, combining first contact, a mission into space and the hint of something apocalyptic on the horizon. And there’s a good chunk of Ocean of Storms that fulfils its promise. The beginning is thrilling and the momentum is maintained as America works to put together its mission to the Moon. I really enjoyed the detail of this. It felt believable as well as tense. The sections on the Moon are also excellent and intriguing as well as exciting.
However, this is a novel of two halves and, for me, the second half didn’t live up to the first as the science fiction fell away and we are left with a rather plodding and implausible conspiracy thriller, mostly based very firmly on Earth. This did feel a bit of an anti climax. The care that had been spent during the first half to make us empathise and understand the characters also falls away and the baddie, as this second half demands one, isn’t as interesting as the mystery of what lay on the Moon. As this is a novel with two authors, it makes me wonder how this affected the structure of the book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a sizeable chunk of Ocean of Storms and parts of it are irresistible.