Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Review: The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa

Found via: Jen Robinson's Book Page

I've read several reviews on this one...and of course the one review that I want to link to now is the one I never saved! Argh. How frustrating.

Also frustrating: How myself and that one unfindable reviewer seem to be the only ones not enamored with The Comet's Curse.

In the not-too-distant future, the comet Bhaktul passes near enough to Earth that its tail passes through our atmosphere. However, instead of being just another fascinating astronomical event, it turns out that Bhaktul was carrying microscopic particles in its tail that are fatal to humans over the age of 18.

As adults around the world start to die in droves, Dr. Zimmerman is one of the few who realizes that instead of wasting time trying to develop a cure before all the adults die, his energy should be focused on saving at least a sliver of the human race. And so the Galahad project is born - choosing 251 teenagers to be sent on a 5 year space flight to begin colonizing another planet.

The teenagers are the best and the brightest 15 and 16 year olds from around the world, and the best of the best make up the Council that will govern the ship and the crew. Guiding the Council and helping to maintain the ship is Roc, the ship's smart-alec computer system.

But on Earth, not everyone is happy with Dr. Zimmerman's plans. Whether they disagree with his methods of choosing a crew, or his focus on space, they write letters and protest and use everything within their means to foil the launch. Nothing seems to succeed - that is, until a few days after the Galahad has launched, and there are mysterious sightings and incidents of vandalism throughout the ship. Just when the Galahad crew thought they were safe, it seems a new problem has followed them on board.

I've mentioned before that I really like stories where all of the adults are gone. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with that, but there you have it. However, The Comet's Curse left way too many questions and leaps in logic for me to really remain interested. It seemed like all of the adults were just giving up on Earth as soon as the Bhaktul virus/plague/epidemic began - negating the fact that all of these children and teenagers still had several years to live before the virus would even start affecting them. This isn't like other stories where when you turn 18 you immediately sicken and die - Dr. Zimmerman lasts more than two years before even starts to fall ill. Plus I really doubt imminent death is the factor that's going to convince teenagers to stop having babies.

Also never explained: why 251 teenagers? That seems like a really small number for repopulating a civilization. In Battlestar Galactica they were concerned about repopulating and they had more than 100 times more people than the Galahad carried!

This is supposed to be the beginning of a six part series, but I really don't see how the drama is going to hold up for six books. This book is told half through flashbacks from the development of the Galahad project - but those flashbacks cover the entire development, so there's nothing else to add there. After the crew dispatches the danger presented in this particular book, it seems like there are only so many more options for drama and they would get old well before book 6.

On a positive note? This isn't a future where America saves the world. The crew is definitely multi-cultural, and the Chinese-born second in command is even featured on the cover. Unfortunately many of the characters felt thin, and the romances that Testa is setting up have all the heft of a soap opera (really: one guy observes the girl he likes hugging another guy in a moment of triumph and immediately decides that she really must like that guy. Never mind no one knew this guy was in close enough proximity to hug as well, or the fact that they were celebrating not being dead - if I'd just averted a disaster, I'd be hugging whoever was closest too, whether I liked them, or liked them, or not).

If you're a fan of the "all adults are gone/dying" genre, you might want to give this one a try, if just to satisfy your own curiosity. It's a short read so it wouldn't require too much of an investment. If you're not already a fan of the genre, however, there are plenty of other titles you should seek out first!
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