||April 10, 2012
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What really happened to the crew of Apollo 18 in the Sea of Crises? The sons of mission commander Bob Cartwright may die trying to find out.
What really happened to the crew of Apollo 18, the last of America’s manned lunar forays, and a mission that ended in tragedy when the heat shield on the command capsule failed during re-entry, leaving three dead astronauts inside burned beyond recognition? With them died any chance of learning the meaning of Commander Bob Cartwright’s last enigmatic statement, “That shouldn’t be here,” uttered just before all communication was lost during the astronauts’ first moon walk, or of discovering what took place during three blacked out days in the Mare Crisium, the Sea of Crises.
Thirty-six years later, Cartwright’s sons make a shocking discovery: The capsule that came down in the Pacific Ocean with three charred remains was not their father’s capsule. And the body they buried all those years before was not their father. What they've uncovered puts the three brothers on the run, chased by a ruthless group who will stop at nothing to preserve the secret behind the fate of the Apollo 18 astronauts. The brothers will need to set aside past differences and pool their talents if they are to stay alive and learn what really happened in the Sea of Crises.
Nate Cartwright paused in the quiet hallway outside his condominium and listened intently. No sound came from the other side of the door. But that was misleading. He knew with an overwhelming certainty the moment he stepped inside he’d be under attack.
With as much stealth as he could muster, he inserted his key in the door handle and slowly rotated it. He stood frozen for an instant. Then, in one quick motion, he swung the door open, took two steps in and braced.
There was nothing but silence.
Then he heard it.
From the deep shadows in the kitchen at the far end of the hallway came a sound he knew all too well. Suddenly, Buster flashed across the width of the corridor, his tiny paws skittering on the hardwood floor as he worked frantically to alter direction. Just before banging into the bedroom doorway, he managed to get himself turned, somehow staying upright on short splayed limbs. As he caromed off the door frame, he pumped his legs furiously, finally found purchase, and came hurtling down the hallway.
Nate had just enough time to set down his briefcase before Buster was on him, his front paws scrambling at the fabric of Nate’s slacks and his stub of a tail convulsing wildly. At his full extension, Buster barely reached Nate’s knees, but his relative lack of height did nothing to discourage his enthusiasm. Nate reached down with both hands and gave the dog an affectionate scratch behind the ears.
“Good to see you too, buddy.”
Then he gently lowered the dog, closed the front door and retrieved his briefcase. He strode down the hall to the den, Buster padding after him, panting happily, his paws making little tapping sounds on the floor.
The small den, which doubled as Nate’s home office, was dominated by a large floor-to-ceiling window. In the morning, the inky blackness beyond would dissolve to reveal an unobstructed view of the Santa Monica Bay. Now, however, the window merely framed a reflection of Nate standing in the pool of light from the desk lamp, his visage staring back at him intently from beneath heavy dark eyebrows - a perpetual look of solemnity that, try as he might, never seemed to leave him.
What had Anna called it? His “brooding omnipresence?” They’d both laughed at it back then. But it had always made Nate feel a little self-conscious. In the end, he wondered, had his seriousness driven her away? Not that it mattered. The two of them would never have lasted beyond law school. He knew that. And, anyway, it was so many years ago. No point in dwelling on it.
The man in the reflection looked as tired as he felt.
Nate set his briefcase on the desk and was removing his jacket when the phone rang. He glanced reflexively at the clock on the wall. Almost two in the morning. Who the hell would be calling at this hour?
He lifted the handset out of its cradle as the phone rang again and saw his brother’s number in the illuminated display. He stabbed at the talk button and put the device up to his head.
There was no immediate reply. In the background, Nate heard metallic voices echoing through a large space - the arrival of a flight being announced. United Airlines. Peter must be in an airport terminal.
“Peter?” he repeated.
“Nate, it’s me.”
Anxiety strained his brother’s voice.
“Peter, what’s wrong?”
“I think I’m in trouble.”
That got Nate’s full attention.
“What do you mean? Where are you?”
“LAX. And I’m pretty sure they’re here.”
“I don’t know.”
Nate took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “What do they look like?”
“I don’t know that either. Nate, I’m serious. Someone’s following me, more than one person. I can feel it. They followed me here from Minneapolis.”
Nate rubbed a hand over his face. This made no sense, and it was completely unlike his brother. “Why would someone be following you, Peter?”
Through the phone came another announcement over the public address system drowning out most of Peter’s next words. The only thing Nate could make out was: “...my project.”
“Peter, I didn’t get all of...”
“Can you pick me up?” Peter interrupted. “I know it’s late.”
“Of course,” Nate replied, already sliding back into his jacket. “I can be there in twenty minutes.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Debut author Steere shows off his air-and-space mastery in this swashbuckling tale of Apollo 18, the moon landing that never was.
In Steere’s version of 1976, astronauts Bob Cartwright, Mason Gale and Steve Dayton head toward the moon to explore the lunar feature known as Mare Crisium, but the landing team of Cartwright and Gale discovers something out of place. Water? Aliens? A black monolith? The world never finds out, since the crew isn’t heard from or seen again until their capsule, a charred wreck containing three crisp corpses, plunges into the Pacific. Thirty years later, Nate, Peter and Matt—the sons of mission commander Cartwright—find themselves tangled in the investigation of what really happened. Peter, a journalist, starts it all by ferreting out NASA documents and questioning Gale’s surviving relatives in Minnesota. Now he’s being followed. Oldest brother Nate, a crack legal consultant, comes to the rescue in LA by using his organizational skills to execute evasive maneuvers against bad guys who send impolite warnings in the form of animal carcasses. The two escape to Idaho in search of Matt, Peter’s twin, who was once attached to an off-the-grid military-intelligence unit known as the Organization. Things get devilishly complicated, conspiratorial and dangerous as the brothers are pushed toward the Atlantic coast amid a series of revelations in the form of flashbacks to the lunar sea. Steere’s high-octane suspense tale takes off with all the intrigue and honor of the best Space-Age Westerns and political thrillers. Good guys, bad guys, damsels in distress, secret tunnels, sexy aircraft, heavy ordnance and gadgets galore are set handsomely by Steere’s deft renderings. A bit of melodrama and some boilerplate dialogue don’t derail this solidly built module whose commanding verisimilitude will enthrall space and tech enthusiasts as well as anyone ready for adventure.
A stellar thriller that handily juggles its formulaic elements to achieve near-perfect liftoff.
Our story begins with action and suspense. Nate Cartwright receives a mysterious phone call from Peter, his brother. Peter thought he was being followed and that it had something to do with his project. The project was connected to Apollo 18 whose commander was their father, Bob Cartwright. It was obvious someone did not want anyone to dig deeper into the Apollo disaster. What did all of this have to do with the subcommittee on strategic forces? What really happened to the Apollo 18 crew? Why did Commander Bob Cartwright utter the words "That shouldn't be here"; How can a person not get caught up in this book? I have always been fascinated with the space program. In reality Mission Apollo 18 was canceled but what if it really did take place? What if the mission landed on the moon but the crew was never heard from again? What if there was a cover up?
Author Marty Steere is brilliant! His plot is plausible, the characters are realistic, and the writing is superb. My intention is not to give away too much of the plot in my summary. I want the readers to pick up their own copy of this book. Once they begin reading, like me, they will not want to put this book down. I was not familiar with Marty Steere and had no idea what to expect from his book. He impressed me. Steere manages to keep the characters fresh and the suspense building, leading to a crescendo ending.
Marty Steere's Sea of Crises drew me in, held me at the edge, and gave my hand a comforting squeeze when I couldn't stand to see what happened next. This is a thriller with heart that will leave its readers satisfied they followed the Cartwright boys into a dangerous adventure.
On September 1976 Commander Bob Cartwright led a three-man crew on the last of the manned Apollo missions, Apollo 18. Communications with the crew were inexplicably lost during the astronauts' first moonwalk, and despite NASA's efforts could not be re-established. Three days later, Apollo 18's still silent command module splashed down into the South Pacific. The Navy divers who reached the module beheld a gruesome tableau: three bodies burned beyond recognition. Commander Cartwright and his crew were apparently cooked to death by a failed heat shield.
Even after thirty-six years this event was near and dear to Commander Cartwright's sons. But when Peter Cartwright made a frantic call to elder brother Nate, asking for a late airport pickup because he suspected he was being followed, neither sibling realized just how much danger they have called upon themselves. Pursued by a deadly group of hunters working for The Organization, they must gather the surviving families of the other two astronauts and piece together what really happened to Apollo 18's crew.
It's possible that lunar history buffs, military history buffs, and conspiracy theorists will comb the details of Marty Steere's tale for authenticity before they allow themselves to accept the story. I am unable to vouch for logic loopholes regarding any references to the Apollo missions (cancelled or otherwise), to whether The Organization alludes to any existing entity in the US government's employ, or whether Mare Crisium is geographically a feasible landing site for a lunar module. As a reader I feel however that proofs of authenticity are incidental to enjoying this adventure.
Proofs of authenticity aside, Sea of Crises was a delight to read. Its intriguing mystery coupled with a quick pacing drew me in till the final chapters and certainly held my attention, but what made it delightful was the author's portrayal of relationships: the dynamic between Nate and his siblings, between commander Cartwright and his colleagues, even between the brothers and Nate's sweet-ugly dog Buster, who he adopted from a shelter and who got tangled in the mess as well. There was a tangential flashback about a basketball game Nate and his brother Matt were in that established the sense each sibling had of the other's character and abilities: technically just a side story, it not only gave me a sense of how much each brother instinctively supported and understood the other, the story in itself was a gripping tale of how their team became the state high school basketball champions! As a reader I didn't feel any time was lost from reading the tangent, but I certainly appreciated the elaboration on just how much these boys trusted each other. I felt that often for any segues, flashbacks, or parentheticals I encountered in the story: no time lost, no abrupt break in pace, and my understanding of the characters deepened.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sea of Crises and I highly recommend it to everyone who loves a good story, regardless of their favorite genre - Marty Steere put together a well-balanced tale that would call to a wide variety of readers. There was suspense and intrigue for lovers of conspiracies and spy thrillers; there were nail-biting cliffhangers and exciting fight scenes for those who had a fondness for action and adventure; there was a smattering of speculative fiction for the sci-fi lover curious about the could-have-beens of the cancelled Apollo missions; there was even a tasteful undercurrent of romance for those who want a little more sweetness than a James Bond-like roll in the hay. But what really made the experience wonderful for me was the relationship the author painted between the three sons of Apollo 18 commander Bob Cartwright - throughout the crazy situation they found themselves in, siblings Nate, Peter, and Matt Cartwright kept and held a brotherly bond that humanized this mystery thriller.
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Reader Reviews for "Sea of Crises"
|Reviewed by Laurie Franco
|This book caught my interest almost immediately, which I loved. Nate received a call from his brother, Peter, late at night asking to be picked up from the airport. He is positive he is being followed. Nate picks him up, asking why his normally calm and levelheaded brother would be so paranoid. Peter, who is a writer, tells him he is finally writing the book he has always wanted to write...the one about the Apollo 18 space mission. Their father was the commander of the mission and died during re-entry when the modules heat shield failed and the men were basically cooked to death. In doing his research, especially with the help of a Freedom of Information Act inquiry, he obtained documents and photos never seen by the public. In examining one photo (a particularly gruesome one of the inside of the module when it was opened to get the astronauts out) he realizes that the module number is wrong. The one in the photo is the one that was supposed to be used in the cancelled Apollo 19 mission, not the one sent up to the moon with his dad. Of course now he is questioning what is really going on and if the body they buried was in fact his father. His investigating triggered an entire secret government agency to try to contain him and his information. From the moment Nate and Peter got home to find what they THOUGHT was Nate's dog decapitated and hanging from a hook as a warning, it was constant action and intrigue.
I honestly loved reading this book because I love a book that can not only catch your interest, but keep it all the way to the last page. This book managed to do that in spades. The characters were all fantastic and easy to like, even the bad guys, lol. It is a very well written book, and the ending was FANTASTIC. I loved learning the true fate of the men of the Apollo 18 mission in Mr. Steere's story. It would make a great movie! Five stars and I'd definitely read more from this talented author.