Heaven's Shadow by David S Goyer and Michael Cassutt

8/10 This is no inferior Armageddon rip-off.

From screenwriter, film director and comic-book writer David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Ghost Rider) and television producer, screenwriter and author Michael Cassutt (The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone) comes this sci-fi novel: Heaven’s Shadow.

In 2016 amateur astrologers spot an object in the sky, literally over the South Pole. An object one hundred kilometres across and heading towards Earth… As the Near Earth Object (NEO) approaches two manned spaceships operated by NASA and the Russian – Indian –Brazilian Coalition race to be the first to land on the unexplored surface. What both crews eventually encounter on this NEO is a discovery that will change humanity forever.

I am happy to report that this is no inferior ‘Armageddon’ rip-off (which has received much derision over the years anyway). This is a fresh take on space exploration and in particular a space race with a difference. The story is told by moving the action back and forth between Mission Control in Houston and Bangalore respectively and from the perspective of the crews of the two spacecraft. Interspersed along the way giving events a dramatic immediacy are blogs from observers around the world, quotations and excerpts from press conferences, broadcasts and books. This all has the combined effect of making things feel authentic.

The techno jargon rings true as well making the mission more believable. The novel is also packed with mystery, intrigue, suspense and danger. This is your typical perilous mission into the unknown and it is handled well by Goyer and Cassutt.

I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of a ‘new space race’ and the novel makes space exploration sexy again. Goyer has already sold the rights to Warner Bros to adapt this into a film and it does read like a screenplay at times.

Along with the action there is plenty of caustic dry wit and gallows humour in evidence. It is interesting as well to observe that the astronauts are bound by protocol and have to follow rigid doctrine. It is soon evident that NASA and the Coalition are woefully out of their depth and in unknown territory. With plenty of references to pop culture it’s a lot of fun and tailor made for a sophisticated, cynical modern day audience.

It was interesting to read about the two crews with their different cultures, genders, outlooks and backgrounds; these are not your usual male, crew cut all-American stereotypes one would normally encounter in something like this and the novel is all the better for it.

Themes of science and religion are well explored and addressed here and the NEO will more than challenge humanities collective knowledge and beliefs regarding the universe. It is also a clever plot device of having the NEO coming to Earth rather than the usual long space journey to a distant planet.

The Advanced Reading Copy I read weighed in at a hefty 560 plus pages and could do with some trimming and editing here and there. This does get unnecessarily weighed down a little at times by back-story and exposition. That minor quibble aside this is an exceptional sci-fi adventure and it is easy to see why it is the first in a trilogy with a movie deal already in place. I am certain that the Heaven’s Series will attract a diverse and an enthralled audience.

Published 2011 by Tor

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