Sea of Crises by Marty Steere

The NASA space program has been a fascinating topic for many years, through triumphs and tragedies. Author Marty Steere captures all the excitement and intrigue of it in Sea of Crises – so convincingly, in fact, that readers may wonder at first glance whether the book is a “tell-all” expose or a work of fiction.

It’s a novel – and very well written. The book deals with the fate of a fictitious Apollo 18 lunar mission that went terribly wrong. But what the public was led to believe and what really happened may be two entirely different stories. In 1976, three men were launched into space. They were experienced astronauts Bob Cartwright and Steve Dayton, and newcomer Mason Gale.

While Steve Dayton circles the moon, Bob Cartwright and Mason Gale are meant to spend twenty minutes on the lunar surface, assessing the current situation there, and they are then supposed to return to their craft. The moon landing itself goes fairly smoothly. But when Bob Cartwright boards the lunar rover and begins to move around, he says, “That shouldn’t be here.” Suddenly, all video and audio connection is lost, and nothing more is heard from the Apollo 18 crew for three days.

At the end of the three days, when the journey was meant to conclude, the module returns home and splashes into the ocean. Unfortunately, the catastrophic sight rescuers find when they open the module hatch rivals the Challenger or Columbia disaster. The bodies of the three astronauts are inside – burned beyond recognition. This is apparently the fault of a heat shield failure.

Thirty-six years later, the families of the astronauts are still haunted by the outcome of the mission and by the explanation for it. They have tried to move on, except for Bob’s son Peter Cartwright, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. He’s uncovered some facts that don’t add up, making him suspect the bodies inside were not those of the Apollo 18 crew. But he’s being threatened because of his investigation and is frightened.

When he tries to interview the family of Mason Gale, they refuse, saying they’ve been warned not to talk. He calls his brother Nate, a Los Angeles-based legal advisor, saying he’s at the airport and needs help. When they return from the airport, Nate’s condo has been ransacked and a dead animal (apparently Nate’s beloved dog Buster) is hung inside as a warning. Clearly something evil is underway and it’s tied in to the doomed Apollo 18 mission.

The men set off for Minneapolis to convince Gale’s family to talk, but first they stop at their brother Matt’s home in Idaho. Matt is Peter’s twin. Instead of a comforting family reunion, however, the meeting sets off even more strange and threatening events. Matt (code name Marek) is, unbeknownst to his brothers, a part of The Organization, a secret group that is partly controlled by the military and partly by those in political power…and it is altogether dangerous. While Marek has used his position for good, there are those within The Organization who want to kill him and they, too, have ties to the space flight of 36 years ago.

The Cartwrights, and eventually members of the Gale and Dayton families, band together to learn the truth behind the mission. The true masterminds behind the mission may be traced to high-ranking officials and politicians. But what really happened all those years ago, and why is it all being kept a secret that’s worth killing for?

The only flaws of Sea of Crises are two graphic scenes involving animals. They were apparently written to imply the violent nature of some of the characters, but animal lovers may find the passages difficult to read.

Otherwise, the book is a totally enthralling thriller with events unfolding toward a fast-paced and surprising climax.

Published simultaneously at http://www.bookpleasures.com.

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