Offworld by Robin Parrish reads like a sci-fi action movie more than a novel. I began reading the book almost twenty-four hours exactly before I finished it and literally only put it down to sleep and eat in that time period. This is far from my usual reading habits, but the book was simply impossible to put down.
The story takes places twenty-five years in the future. The first manned mission to Mars was an almost flawless success and the ship Ares with her four crewmembers is en route back to earth. The only blemish to the mission is Commander Christopher Burke’s disappearance for eighteen hours in a sandstorm, after which he was found unconscious near the crew’s Martian habitat. Burke himself remembers pieces of the eighteen hours in dreams but does not understand how he survived.
The crew loses contact with Earth on the way back and when they finally land they find that everyone has quite literally vanished.
The only clue the crew has is a satellite image of a mysterious light coming from Houston that is visible from space. The crew decide to make their way there, along the way moving through a haunting world where time seems to have stopped. It soon becomes clear that they are not alone, and that someone is deliberately trying to stop them from reaching Houston. Adding to the overall creepiness is a mysterious swirling black vortex that the group sees from time to time.
I had a few questions toward the end of the book as Parrish takes some liberties with a few theological concepts. I was reminded of Stephen Spielberg’s mystical treatment of the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones movies.
The book does not contain references to Jesus or salvation and God is mentioned only a few times, though concepts of the afterlife are dealt with. This book is a clean sci-fi adventure from a Christian author but not what I would classify as an overtly Christian novel. Still, Parrish is clearly a gifted writer who has crafted an engaging tale that will keep readers turning the pages into the night. With a fast plot, multiple twists and turns and an ending that was truly unexpected, Offworld is a treat for sci-fi lovers. The books climax takes place in Houston which will make it that much more fun for Texans.