Hill of Great Darkness, by H. C. Beckerr (WestBow Press, 2011)
In the year 2037, a prototype spaceship called Magellan sets out from Earth on a mission to test a revolutionary new propulsion system—and disappears. The US government will label what happens next “The Magellan Incident” and bury it deep in classified files. An international terrorist group will use whatever means necessary to find the truth and use it for mass destruction.
There’s much to like about this story. The technology is clever and plausible (to this non-scientist reader), the spacecraft itself is funded privately instead of being tied to a particular government’s agenda, there’s a terrorist threat, there are interesting characters, and there are surprises. There’s even a link to the past and the mysterious disappearance of the Native American people known as the Mississippians, of whom I had not heard.
The story is narrated from an omniscient viewpoint, complete with sprinkles of dry humour. While the voice is natural for relating anecdotes over coffee, the low-key delivery often “tells, rather than shows,” which might better suit a literary tale than an action-based plot.
The characters are a mix of heroes, scientists, ordinary folk and villains. Perhaps my favourite is Simone Syette, a brilliant Ugandan scientist who speaks her mind, trusts in Jesus Christ, and is the inventor of Magellan‘s drive unit. It’s clear that the author knows and loves his characters and has put serious time into developing them.
Hill of Great Darkness is a good story that could have been fantastic. The elements are all there, waiting to be teased out by a gifted editor. I’d love to see what Marcher Lord Press would have done with this.
The novel is well worth reading, and the ending sets up a sequel. You can read an interview with H. C. Beckerr at The Old Stone Wall (that’s where I won a copy of the book) and connect with him on Facebook. Hill of Great Darkness is available in softcover, hardcover, and ebook formats. Amazon.ca, Amazon.com.