That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's time once again for the monthly Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. This month, we're focusing on the book The Return by Austin Boyd, the third book in the Mars Hill Classified trilogy. Seeing as this is book three, we should really talk about books one and two first, right? Right.The story starts with a literal bang in The Evidence. It's 2011 and terrorists launch a series of attacks on a number of Air Force bases linked to monitoring space launches as well as Washington, D.C. It would appear that the attacks were perpetrated by Iranian terrorists and soon, there's the usual saber rattling going around as people try to bring them to justice.
But things only get stranger. Out of nowhere, a signal from Mars originates from Mars that scientists believe is the Viking 1 lander. But when they decode the signal, they realize that it's actually a picture of the lander, something that should be impossible. Could it be that there are aliens on Mars, broadcasting that image?
That seems to be the beliefs of Father Malcolm Raines, a charismatic prophet who preaches that the aliens will soon send a message to the people of earth. And sure enough, an alien probe whizzes by the earth and broadcasts just such a message. That's followed by the appearance of two strange alien landers on Mars.
Caught in the middle of all the excitement is astronaut John Wells and his family. John isn't quite sure what to make of all the idea that there really is intelligent life out there, especially when the message of Malcolm Raines conflicts with John's Christian faith. But what can he do when all the evidence points in that direction?
Book two, namely The Proof, picks up where the first book left off. John is on his way to Mars to see if the aliens are real. But it turns out that he didn't have to travel that far. The aliens show up on Earth, popping up in metallic spider walkers. And Father Malcolm Raines is able to predict every appearance. Could it be that Raines's belief that the aliens are really humanity's Father Race is true?
But John can't focus on that. He's got his hands full shepherding his crewmates, Michelle and Sean. He has to be their eyes in the sky while they investigate Mars, meeting the spider walkers and looking for water and life. But then disaster strikes on the way home. The reader thrills with John as he tries to return home with the proof, only to be devastated when he actually does return by a shocking attack.
And that brings us to the third and final book, The Return.
John Wells returns to Mars as part of a larger expedition, only to discover that he and his fellow explorers are not alone. What he doesn't realize is that his family is in the clutches of the nefarious Father Malcolm Raines. The story that started in The Evidence comes to a pulse-pounding end as John unravels exactly what's been going on.
I really enjoyed this trilogy. In many ways, it reminded me of Tom Clancy's novels, especially the first book with the terrorist attacks. Austin Boyd, a NASA astronaut finalist, is able to bring a level of authenticity to the story. You can see this possibly happening and that's what makes it such a rip-roaring ride.
I think this is great proof that Christians can produce some killer science fiction (and I'm not just saying that because I have a sci-fi trilogy of my own sitting on a bookshelf, waiting for the day the market is a bit more receptive. Nope, not at all). While there were moments where it felt like Boyd was getting on a soap box and preaching at the wrong moments, those were few and far between and certainly didn't detract from the story as a whole. It was an exciting ride from beginning to end.
That being said, I do have two major gripes about the story, especially how it unfolded in The Return. I won't go into that today because to do so, I'd have to reveal some major spoilers (which I realize I kind of did with my reviews of all three books, but c'mon, it's hard not to do that). Tomorrow I'll dissect those two flaws and reveal a third, minor complaint.
In the meantime, go visit my fellow blog tourians:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Merrie Destefano or Alien Dream
Rebecca LuElla Miller