While I’ve been blogging my way through The Sea of Monsters in my Michael Reads Percy Jackson blog series, I’ve also been reading a book of a different sort: Kenneth G. Bennet’s science fiction thriller Exodus 2022…
Joe Stanton is in agony. Out of his mind over the death of his young daughter.
Unable to contain his grief, Joe loses control in public, screaming his daughter’s name and causing a huge scene at a hotel on San Juan Island in Washington State. Thing is, Joe Stanton doesn’t have a daughter. Never did. And when the authorities arrive they blame the 28-year-old’s outburst on drugs.
What they don’t yet know is that others up and down the Pacific coast—from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound—are suffering identical, always fatal mental breakdowns.
With the help of his girlfriend—the woman he loves and dreams of marrying—Joe struggles to unravel the meaning of the hallucination destroying his mind. As the couple begins to perceive its significance—and Joe’s role in a looming global calamity—they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos, and outlast the time bomb ticking in Joe’s brain.
That’s from the back cover, and here’s my review…
Exodus 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett
Set in the near-future, Exodus 2022 is a sci-fi tale that feels all the more real for its proximity to our present. It could take place today save for a few vital technologies (e.g. the ability to download memories from a human brain and analyze them with enough time and processing power). As a Seattle resident, the fact that much of the book takes place in the Pacific Northwest drew me in that much deeper.
The characters are vividly drawn, from the protagonists Joe and Ella—whose relationship is as palpable as they are—to the arguably psychopathic Beck and his employees—to Mia, the…well, the nature of Mia’s character is such that she’s both my favorite and something of a spoiler, so I’ll say no more. Bennett gives each of them life on the page.
The concept of the novel itself fascinated me. Someone has made telepathic contact with Joe Stanton, affecting him on a both a behavior, spiritual, and physiological level, and whoever it is appears connected to something incredible. Bennett gives the reader hints and clues, from many perspectives, at just the right pace to lead us deeper into the story until we’re entrenched, invested, and eager to see how it all plays out once the pieces are in place.
The book is not perfect, of course. (Few books are.) To me, pacing problems weakened the last 20% of Exodus 2022. The climax feels a little padded, and what may have been intended to enhance tension goes a little too far, bogging down the narrative with more detail than is needed about things such as going up some stairs, renting a helicopter, or purchasing equipment. Nonetheless, this is only a small blemish on an otherwise excellent, intriguing novel.
My only other complaint is that one particular aspect of the ending itself felt like it came just a little out of left-field. I hesitate to mention that, however, as my own life prevented me from reading this book as quickly as I wanted to; it’s possible that earlier in the book Bennett laid the groundwork for that aspect, and I just didn’t remember it due to gaps in my reading time.
I was also sad about what happened to a particular character, but that’s my problem—and also a positive, in the sense that Bennett got me to care that much about said character.
Bottom line: Exodus 2022 is a gripping science fiction novel that feels both personal and epic.
Full disclosure: Kenneth G. Bennett and I are both published by Booktrope, and he recently read and chose to endorsed one of my own sci-fi novels, A Shadow in the Flames. Nonetheless this review–as with all of my reviews–is an honest one.