Thursday, December 30, 2010
By Patrick Lee
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, 2010
Back in the 1970s, during the activation of the Very Large Ion Collider at Wind Creek, Wyoming, an accident resulted in the creation of a wormhole, officially named “The Breach.” Periodically, assorted items of alien technology — known as “entities” —would appear. An autonomous organization known as Tangent was created to research, catalog, and control the entities that come through. Paige Campbell, one of Tangent’s leading scientists, is shown a very near-future in which mankind appears to have been annihilated by an entity. Understandably alarmed, Paige rushed off to take this information to the President of the United States. She is no sooner done when an unidentified paramilitary force attacks the motorcade in which she’s traveling, kills her companions, and abducts her. A former member of Tangent, Travis Chase, and Paige’s assistant, Bethany, are enlisted to rescue Paige. They manage to track her to a secret installation in Washington, DC, and manage to free her. However, the mysterious and decidedly hostile group now relentlessly pursues them, even as they attempt to unravel the hellish fate waiting for them and the rest of the world.
Ghost Country is Patrick Lee’s follow-up to his first novel, The Breach, and utilizes characters and concepts he introduced and developed in his earlier book. Regardless, Ghost Country stands alone well enough. Like The Breach, Ghost Country is more a hard-boiled thriller than a science-fiction or horror story, although the alien technology from the other side of the Breach certainly plays a major part in the unfolding of events. Indeed, during my reading of the novel, I found it moving in a very different direction from what I expected, based on the description of the novel and its first few chapters. Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily — the story moves at a clip, and the characters are mostly engaging, particularly Travis Chase, the hardened and occasionally not-quite-so moral protagonist. On the other hand, the back story of the Breach itself, and the entities it unleashes, must be taken on faith, as — by all indications — Lee’s first novel offers no more insight into the actual phenomenon than this one does. I confess to some disappointment at the downplaying of such a potentially fascinating aspect of the overall concept. Regardless, at the heart of the story is the dire need for Travis, Paige, and Bethany to discover the truth, in a hurry, and set things right, if humanly possible. That much the author manufactures with great aplomb.
In the end, having become acclimated to the direction the novel ends up taking, the revelations about the organization against which the protagonists are pitted, as well as the final unfolding of events, come as no great surprise. However, the novel is a fast, solid, and entertaining read; I’ll give it 3.5 out of 5.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Stephen Mark Rainey
Stephen Mark Rainey is the author of the novels Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie, HarperCollins, 1999), Balak (Wildside Books, 2000), The Lebo Coven (Thomson Gale/Five Star Books, 2004), The Nightmare Frontier (Sarob Press, 2006, and in e-book format by Crossroads Press, 2010), and Blue Devil Island (Thomson Gale/Five Star Books, 2007); three short story collections; and over 80 published works of short fiction. Stephen lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with a passle of Damned housecats, and over the past year have become an avid Damned geocacher. For updates on what's happening currently, visit The Blog Where Horror Dwells and/or the News page.