by Douglas Preston

(excellent; top 30% of SciThri)

Year published: 2009
Category:science thriller; thriller

Tech rating (out of 5):

SUMMARY (from the hardcover jacket flap):

Wyman Ford is tapped for a secret expedition to Cambodia to locate the source of strangely beautiful gemstones that do not appear to be of this world.

A brilliant meteor lights up the Maine coast…and two young women borrow a boat and set out for a distant island to find the impact crater.

A scientist at the National Propulsion Facility discovers an inexplicable source of gamma rays in the outer solar system. He is found decapitated, the data missing.

High-resolution NASA images reveal an unnatural feature hidden in the depths of a crater on Mars…and it appears to have been activated.

Sixty hours and counting.


Impact is a masterfully crafted thriller by bestselling author Douglas Preston (Relic). As you can tell from the summary, a number of seemingly divergent plot lines converge around a central event: something from space has struck the Earth. Preston seamlessly weaves these lines together and drops surprises and twists at exactly the right places. Overall the characters, especially the female protagonist, who is a walking bundle of contradictions, are rich and fascinating.

Preston takes his research seriously. Details about Cambodia and some astrophysics are convincing and accurate. Some of the book’s best action scenes actually occur at sea off the Maine coast on lobster fishing boats, and Preston appears to have first-hand knowledge of the jargon and the operation of craft in those waters.

I have little else to say about the plot; it does involve science but the book feels more like a mainstream general thriller than a science thriller per se (hence the four biohazards rating).

Overall, Impact is a superior thriller written by a highly skilled author. The book dances on the edge of sci-fi but definitely is structured like a contemporary thriller. Ideal beach read for fans of thrillers of any kind.

Key words: meteor; crater; gamma rays; honeys; radiation; Mars; lobster; Khmer; strange matter; black hole