Review

Saucer

by Stephen Coonts



Here's a little secret with which to start your day. A lot of
writers, particularly those who have achieved mega-success,
maintain a little savings account of books. It could be made of
books they wrote in wondrous spurts fueled by the combination of
energy and inspiration, books they always wanted to write but for
one reason or another never got published, books different from
those they normally write; but they are there. Stephen King had
(has) so many of them that he invented another writer to take them
off of his hands. Dean Koontz and Donald Westlake have done it as
well. I have my suspicions about Elmore Leonard, but that's another
story. What is interesting is that when one of these books pop up
it is often so good that one wonders why it wasn't published
earlier.

SAUCER, I think, is one of those books from the Stephen Coonts
reserves. I would guess that it was written sometime between 1997
and 1999. If I'm correct, then the reason that it was not published
before now is obvious: Coonts was in the middle of his Jake Grafton
tales, making those better and better. The last of these, AMERICA,
published a few months before September 2001, was so eerily
prescient, in hindsight of a terrorist attack on the United States,
that watching the horror unfold on TV was almost (with a few
important differences) like catching the ultimate disastrous
consequences of life imitating art. It's accordingly possible that
Coonts decided to catch a break and dust this one off. We're
certainly the richer for it.

Coonts wastes no time getting to the point in SAUCER. Rip Cantrell
(great name, that), a member of a seismic team in the Sahara
Desert, spots some reflective light in a place where there
shouldn't be any. An investigation reveals that the light source is
a piece of metal improbably buried in sandstone. The metal turns
out to be a flying saucer that has rested there for at least
140,000 years. The discovery, in this age of instantaneous
worldwide communications, satellite cameras, and most importantly,
loose lips, does not remain a secret for long. The first outside
agency on the scene is a U. S. Air Force UFO investigation team.
They are closely followed by a team of bully boys sent by Roger
Hedrick, a ruthless Australian billionaire (the second richest man
in the world...just behind Bill Gates) who is planning to sell the
saucer. And the third is a group of Libyian soldiers.

The saucer, you see, is in a piece of real estate in the middle of
a square claimed by three different countries, including the
Libyans. There's one problem, though. Cantrell feels, by virtue of
his discovery of the saucer, that it is his. He enlists the
(somewhat involuntary) help of Charley Pine, a drop-dead gorgeous
ex-Air Force pilot who was brought along by the UFO Investigation
team in an advisory capacity. The saucer, as it turns out, is
almost ridiculously easy to fly. And before you know it, Cantrell
and Pine are giving people all over the world Kodak moments and
memories to recount to their grandchildren.

That, however, is just the first fifth or so of SAUCER. The U. S.
Government and Hedrick really, really want the saucer. Hedrick will
do absolutely anything to get it and has the resources to do it.
When Hedrick kidnaps Pine and the saucer (would that be a
"saucernap"? Or is a "saucernap" the dormant state of an
extraterrestrial vehicle?), Cantrell proceeds to get them both
back. The result is the explosive climax we've come to expect from
Coonts, who never disappoints.

SAUCER may not be a Jake Grafton novel, but it's certainly one of
Coonts's best efforts. If the idea of an Air Force pilot being able
to more or less jump into an extraterrestrial vehicle and fly off
with it gives you pause, Coonts has a plausible explanation for
you. I would go so far as to say that when we ultimately come
across evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization it will be in
the manner described in SAUCER; that is, if some of the events
depicted in SAUCER haven't occurred already. Coonts speaks to that,
too.

SAUCER is what would once have been called a "ripping yarn," full
of adventure, suspense, and incremental romance. As much as I enjoy
his Jake Grafton efforts, I never missed Jake once. If that is any
measure of success, then Coonts has succeeded, and
masterfully.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Saucer
by Stephen Coonts

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312283423
  • ISBN-13: 9780312283421