A pounding door awakens John Wells from a sound sleep. In a matter of minutes, John and the other 12 members of the P-3C Orion, a U.S. Navy submarine-hunter aircraft, head to the airport. They are on a classified mission to find a Russian attack submarine, and John, nicknamed Hawk, spots it. The incident near Athens, Greece marks the end of John's time on this assignment and begins the drama in THE EVIDENCE.
A committed Christian, John slips away from his military crew and spends a few moments sitting on an outcropping of the Acropolis and reading his New Testament while staring at the planets, particularly Mars. In February 1999, John learns that he has gained his long-term dream of becoming an astronaut candidate. On the other side of the ocean, John's wife Amy is eager for his return from Europe and more of a normal family life. Instead, Amy is headed for a completely different set of trials in the story.
The second chapter begins 13 years later, in 2011, and sets the fast-paced action for the rest of the book. Nick, a former military officer, has assembled four teams of terrorists with a mysterious wealthy benefactor. Each team has a coordinated plan and uses airplanes packed with explosives and radio-controlled to wreck simultaneous havoc on four different parts of the United States. One team attacks Colorado while another attacks key buildings and transportation arteries in Washington, D.C. The key character in THE EVIDENCE, Captain John Wells, documents the terrorists' explosions from the space station orbiting the earth.
Multiple storylines and short chapters are combined with interesting characters and political intrigue. The overarching theme of the story is a classic good guy versus bad guy scenario, yet with many more complications of politics, service to country, family issues, and God. Also, this story raises the possibility of life on Mars. Malcolm Raines, a Phoenix preacher, stirs loads of publicity and controversy with his prophetic views about the future.
In terms of faith issues, John faces and conquers the temptation of a beautiful female colleague on the space station with months away from his family. Afterwards, he visits his parents in West Virginia. On the family farm, John and his skeptical, unbelieving father have one of the most interesting discussions in this book about faith. His father wants to talk about aliens but John relates it to personal faith saying, "Like it or not, Dad, church is where this conversation is headed. And not just at our dinner table, but all over the world. We need to talk about this. Everyone does. Lots of people are scared, and this alien thing takes them to the raw edge of their faith. They don't know what to believe. Plastic preachers like Raines take advantage of that confusion."
While a science fiction or futuristic novel would not be my first reading choice, first-time novelist Austin Boyd creates a compelling drama. The opening pages of THE EVIDENCE took hold and would not let go until I finished the last page. I found it spellbinding and recommend it. If you are looking for a few hours of escape reading, here's an excellent choice.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on March 8, 2006