Penguin Books Aus
Copy courtesy of the publisher
NASA astronaut Judd Bell is looking forward to a few days at the Beverley Wiltshire hotel with his girlfriend Rhonda. After he and a few others saved the Atlantis 4 shuttle, it’s been a bit of a wild ride. Judd has been treated like a hero, but there’s a cold feeling inside him that shies from the attention. He doesn’t think he’s a hero and a few days with Rhonda and catching up with Corey, the Australian chopper pilot who shared his adventure might be just what he needs. They’re going to meet with the studio responsible for adapting the saving of the shuttle into a big blockbuster movie and do a few promotional appearances.
It’s somewhat fortuitous that he and Corey are together when it happens. All around Los Angeles at the same time, engines begin exploding – cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, chainsaws. Anything that has a combustion engine – the exhaust turns purple and then black and then it explodes. LA becomes chaos as thousands of cars blow up, causing huge amounts of damage. Corey and Judd are able to get information from an injured man that it’s a nanotech airborne virus that gets in to the fuel line. It was supposed to be developed to be used in warfare, to disable an enemy’s weapons before they were able to be used but someone has taken it and used it in an urban manner. California has more cars per capita than any other location in the world – the perfect place to make such a statement of how they are killing the environment and should be stopped. And millionaire Zac Bunsen is willing to sacrifice people in order to get his conservation message across to the masses. And blowing up all of the engines in the local area isn’t the only thing he has planned – there’s another part to his plan that will release the virus to the entire world and cause a destruction that hasn’t been seen before.
In the devastation, Judd sees opportunity. He’s driven to do something, to try and stop this madness any way he can. It might be the only way to ease the cold feeling inside him, to erase the moment where he did nothing and replace it with one where he did something that mattered.
Combustion is the second novel to feature the unlikely pairing of NASA astronaut Judd Bell and outback Australian chopper pilot Corey Purchase. Having saved the world once already, the two are looking forward to a weekend of discussing the movie script and doing some promo. Corey has been hitching his way around America, seeing the country and has managed to find himself many new fans along the way. His ever-faithful dog Spike is by his side as always but Corey tries to keep the conversations he has with Spike secret even though in LA, it’s okay to be eccentric. Most people are, in some way or another. Neither he nor Judd counted on being thrust right into disaster, yet again.
These books are so fun and easy to sink in to – they’re like a huge big budget action flick where the pace is breakneck from the beginning. The plot moves along at a rapid pace and never stalls. Judd and Corey race around LA on push bikes and later on in a helicopter helped along by an antidote to the nanotech virus, attempting to stop Zac Bunsen and his men from completing the next phase of their plan which would cause even more catastrophic devastation. Judd and Corey work as a seamless team, both of them bringing their strengths to the union. Judd is focused, always thinking and Corey tends to be more of a “let’s do this and see what happens” wingman but I noticed that in this book he seemed to come up with more ideas and plans, speak out more. Perhaps their earlier adventure gave him more confidence in himself and his abilities. He grew on me greatly in this book. I liked him in Velocity but it took me a while to warm up to him and his ‘different’ personality. In this book I was on board from the get go and his relationship with Spike integrates into the plot naturally. I don’t even question it anymore. In fact most of the time I find myself wanting to know what Spike is saying and wishing Corey would translate everything. And then I catch myself and think you are wanting to know what a dog is saying.
I really enjoyed the plot of this one – humans have come to rely on technology and vehicles so much. We use them for transport, for emergency assistance and enforcing the rules, to ship food and other goods. The idea of everything with a combustion engine blowing up was kind of a frightening one. Zac Bunsen advocated a more simpler existence, less reliance (or no reliance) on cars and vehicles and respecting the environment a bit more. That’s interesting because it’s certainly something that has been raised before but he didn’t seem to consider the repercussions of that – like food. There are many places that aren’t capable of producing their own food due to design or location. He’s a sociopath so presumably he doesn’t care, but it really isn’t just as simple as blowing up all the vehicles in the world. A simpler existence is actually not always an easier one.
Combustion is a book that takes you on a wild ride but it’s also comfortingly familiar. It’s the sort of book where you know that it’s okay to get attached to the good guys. Steve Worland is carving himself a pretty handy niche in the area of action novels.
Book #186 of 2013
Combustion is the 9th novel read and reviewed for the Aussie Author Challenge, where I am attempting to read more books by Australian male authors.
Make sure you check out my Q&A with Steve, posted here.
Thanks to Steve himself, a lucky reader will one signed copy of Combustion. Simply fill in the form below to enter. Open to Australian residents only.