Saturday, May 23, 2009

Harris, The Third Craft (2008)

James T. Harris, The Third Craft. BPS Books, 2008. Pp. 300. ISBN 9780980923124. £12.00 / $24.95.

Reviewed by Karina Kantas

Knowing that The Third Craft is a trilogy, some readers may think they have the third installment and that the 1st and 2nd parts were called ‘First’ and ‘Second Craft’ respectively. But don’t be fooled: this is a novel about the third UFO to crash land in North America. The book is a comfortable read which could almost put it into the Young Adult genre, especially as the two protagonists are 18 year-old brothers. However, The Third Craft could also be classified as a sci-fi political thriller as the plot is about the political fight between aliens and the US government.

Twin brothers, Hawk and Joe, discover the eponymous craft and in doing so unleash a conspiracy involving aliens that are human and humans that are aliens. Twenty pages in the exciting plot has the brothers just discovering the crashed UFO, Harris’s version of ‘Area 51’, and what really happened in Roswell. Too many dates and name-drops later, we get back to the plot concerning the brother’s discovery.

Unfortunately, the split in the story may cause the reader to lose the flow. The back-story on the major players and their significance plays an important role in the novel, but would work just as well with half the wordage. Too much information overloads the mind, and distracts from the adventure. Certainly, a lot of research has gone into this novel, but with sci-fi, a reader expects to be wowed by advances in science, not delivered lectures on history or religion. The backtracking dulls the senses and may have the reader turning the pages quicker than they are reading them.

Science fiction rightly focuses on the science; the author explains scientific probabilities and results in great detail, but he does so as though explaining to a novice. Most of this lengthy detail would be left on the cutting room floor if The Third Craft were a movie. The scientific detail could be expressed more visually; although Harris’s grasp of the visual in his writing is exceptional, all the back-story and detail in the in-between sections slow down the exciting plot.

There is wonderful description in this novel, however—for example, when Joe first enters the alien ship, Harris allows the reader to explore and experience the interior of the craft along with Joe’s emotions and surprise. Then comes a delicious twist: the next time the novel backtracks, we learn that not only did the government know about the UFOs, but they had been secretly performing their own experiments using alien technology. Later in the novel, Harris offers another delightful twist, one that this reader did not see coming, and that only adds to the excitement of the plot as the twins learn that their life was built around secrecy and lies, and no one is who they seem to be.

The author keeps it in the family when it comes to aliens, and it’s good to know that even extraterrestrials have problems when it comes to politics and property rights!

The books ends how a first installment should: the last chapter is fast and thrilling, causing the reader to want to know what happens next. Harris thankfully doesn’t leave any unanswered questions for future installments, but we know that there is a war coming and that the twins have many more adventures ahead.

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