Review: Obscura by Joe Hart

Obscura_Joe Hart.jpg
By Joe Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joe Hart takes us into the near-future in Obscura, to a time when the Earth is severely polluted and global warming is set to pay a disastrous toll. A deadly new virus, Losian, has emerged, cursing the afflicted with an Alzheimer's-like memory loss on the way to fatality. Although science hasn't had much luck curbing mankind's deadly carbon footprint, it has made some headway into developing a new, cutting-edge method of travel currently being tested in space. Inexplicably, though, the human test subjects are developing violent psychoses and memory loss - symptoms that bear remarkable similarities to Losian. After losing her research funding, Dr. Gillian Ryan is recruited by NASA to continue her work and develop a cure for those afflicted aboard the space station. Easy, right?

Hart does a tremendous job building up the story of Obscura, giving Gillian plenty of personal reasons to be involved in the search for Losian's cure, while also making her an important and striking character in her own right. Smart, tough, and resourceful, Gillian is a terrific heroine, but one who also has an important weak spot in her addiction to pills. On the science front, Hart's fresh mode of travel will be old-hat to plenty of sci-fi fans, but the technology is given a shiny new coat of paint here thanks to some refreshing plot elements and unintended consequences.

While Obscura is a thrilling read, Hart infuses plenty of creepiness throughout, injecting some welcome elements of horror that will keep readers guessing. There are a few memorable scenes, and characters, etched into my mind thanks to Hart's vivid descriptions and scenarios that packed a lovely bit of wow factor. The story itself is what truly grabbed me, though - murders aboard a space station, drug addiction, and whole lotta paranoia - all perfectly paced and flawlessly executed. I absolutely had to know what was happening, and what was going to happen next.

Obscura is the kind of read you need to clear your calendar for because this is one hell of a page-turner from start to finish. Fans of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter and Pines should feel right at home with this cutting-edge thriller.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from publisher Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley.]

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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