This book is another in the suspense fiction genre line put out by Bethany House to address the need for good fiction. It uses science fiction in the mix. “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits” come to mind when evaluating this format.

The story is set in the future. It is 2032. Four astronauts have completed a trip to Mars. Man has walked on the surface. Somewhere on the way back they lose touch with the space center in Houston. Upon returning home they are greeted by an Earth void of inhabitants. Even the animals have disappeared. They are all alone. Alone except for a homeless child named Mae. Why is she left and the others gone?

The theme is self sacrifice for the good of others. The struggle at the start is man against nature as the world fights back for some reason. Then we have man against man. This story has layers to it.

Owen, one of the astronauts, gets to thinking, “Do you remember that movie — it was out years ago — about nature developing an air bound toxin that wiped out all of humanity? Can’t remember what it was called. But the story went on that nature grew tired of people destroying and polluting the environment, so it created a natural defense to fight back against the species that was doing all this damage — us.”

When asked to clarify he states, “There are more variables in the cosmos than we may ever comprehend. The possibilities are nearly infinite”

Then they find Mae. She is another thing that they don’t understand. She is an enigma.

The book uses the suspense technique of the countdown. For the first 200 pages we follow these five characters, then we get introduced to another group consisting of army soldiers lead by a Col. Mark Roston who are trying to keep the astronauts from getting to Houston where the answer lies. It seems there is a machine that has altered the universe. The people and animals have been sent to another realm — offworld.

The machine is breaking down. If not given the cyber code in time it will not restore reality as we know it. But the one who gives it the code will cease to exist.

In 361 pages and 20 chapters author Robin Parrish is able to stretch our imagination and make us care for the fate of the world. It is a well written tale of suspense that chills you and thrills you. This just goes to show that suspense and science fiction do adhere to each other without watering down either style. Parrish is one of the masters in this field.

He is also the author of “Merciless,” one of the “Dominion Trilogy,” which was reviewed in the Santa Monica Daily Press last year.

Science fiction is useful in conveying certain information that is difficult to transmit any other way. You can contact DANE at smdp_review@yahoo.com.