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Ghost Country by Patrick Lee
Review by Don Metzler
Harper Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061584442
Date: 28 December 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

The city was drifted with human bones.

Seven decades of wind had scurried them into piles against all available obstructions. Cars, buildings, landscaping walls, planter boxes. They were everywhere except for open stretches of flat ground – like the section of parking lot immediately below.

Travis let his eyes roam the nearest pile. The bones had massed there against a different wing of the hotel. He could see them with enough clarity to discern adult skulls from those of children, and large ribs from small ones. The bones were scoured clean and white. Everyone who’d died outdoors had been quickly discovered by coyotes and foxes and desert cats, and whatever they'd left behind, the sun and wind had eventually taken care of.

"It's everyone, isn't it?" Bethany said. "They really did it. They all came here and just... died."

Travis looked at her. Saw her eyes suddenly haunted by a new thought.

"Maybe we were with them," she said. "Maybe our bones are out there somewhere."

Paige Campbell and her colleagues at Tangent, a top secret, multi-national organization, have stumbled upon something that scares the hell out of them. It's been labeled an entity, and it is the latest of many alien objects to have entered our world through a hole in reality dubbed the Breach. The Breach was accidentally created in 1978 by a scientific experiment that went horribly wrong, and Tangent has been guarding the secret ever since.

This latest object to enter our world through the Breach is a device that seems to open a window to the future--in this case a window to exactly seventy years in the future. And what Paige and her colleagues have seen through this window chills them to their very cores: cities lie in ruins while packs of wolves, African lions, and other predators prowl the overgrown streets of what had once been New York City and Washington D.C. But there are no living human beings anywhere in the picture.

Confused and frightened by this bleak vision of the future, Paige's first impulse is to brief the President of the United States about what they have discovered. The hope is that he may possess some inside information as to what looming catastrophe might possibly bring about such an end. But less than thirty minutes after their meeting with the President, Paige's motorcade is riddled with automatic weapons fire. It is immediately obvious to Paige and her companions that whatever the event is that will bring the world to ruins, it has already begun. And one other fact is also clear: their President is a party to whatever terrible things are about to happen.

Paige is the lone survivor of the attack, and she is taken to a location in a secured high-rise building in Washington. But for how long a time her captors will keep her alive is problematic. Probably not for long.

In her last moments before capture, Paige had been able to get off a frantic phone call to the one person at Tangent whom she most trusts, her young assistant Bethany Stewart. Included in Paige's hurried message were instructions for how Bethany could get in touch with Travis Chase. Travis had saved Paige's life two years earlier, but afterward left Tangent and assumed a false identity. When Bethany locates Travis he realizes at once that only Paige could have sent her; Paige is the only person on earth who would know how and where to find him. So Travis and Bethany board a private jet bound for Washington D.C., on a desperate rescue mission.

But in the end, the mission to rescue Paige becomes secondary. The mission to try to rescue civilization from whatever unnamed horror is set to destroy it has become the paramount objective.

Ghost Country is Patrick Lee's sequel to his first novel, The Breach, and like his earlier book, Ghost Country is packed with rapid-fire action from start to finish. Lee's stories feature a level of technology that is so futuristic as to be almost beyond human comprehension. In fact, the majority of the objects that spill into our world through the Breach are so arcane that the members of Tangent themselves have no clue as to their purpose. And even in the case of objects whose method of operation has been discovered, the technology behind them remains light-years beyond the understanding of these scientists.

But Ghost Country is more than just a science fiction techno/thriller. The heart of the story centers on the hopes, fears, and aspirations of Paige, Travis and Bethany as they attempt to navigate an unfamiliar future world while simultaneously trying to deal with an uncertain and untrustworthy present world -- a world that they are hoping to find a way to salvage in spite of itself.

Paige, Travis, and Bethany's search for answers takes them from Washington to Yuma, Arizona, to the arid desert of northern Chile, and then back to New York, where Paige and Bethany are in danger of being stranded forever seventy years in the future, in a ruined city that is now roamed by lions and packs of hungry wolves.

Patrick Lee somehow manages to make Ghost Country a believable story even though it should be completely unbelievable. Riveting from the first sentence to the last, and a great good read.

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