Great things never come from comfort zones. In an era of exploration like never before, they must rise to the challenge. And dare to fall.
Fable Sky, the world’s largest zero-pressure helium balloon, embarks on its inaugural flight into the stratosphere. The space tourism project has taken many years, the assembly of a highly trained crew and a small fortune to get off the ground. If everything goes well, it will be a flight of discovery and transformation, a triumph of the human imagination. Furthermore, the commercial possibilities will ensure a prosperous future, targeting people yearning for a taste of space.
When the mission is turned upside down at 138,000 feet, things quickly spin out of control, leaving the crew stranded and vulnerable. It will need the project leader and captain, Will, to draw on all his experience and pull them together for an event that could change the course of human history – and possibly end it.
In crisp, propulsive prose, Keith weaves a dynamic post-apocalyptic thrill ride complete with compelling speculative elements, practical problem-solving, and promising mysteries, all centered on a crew of memorable characters. Will brilliantly leads his competent crew consisting of Peta, an abuse survivor, self-centered Donovan, NASA pilot Ariane, and Lloyd, the designer of the balloon who happens to be terrified of heights. Each member of the team offers unique skills vital to the mission, and the group’s interpersonal dynamics create compelling conflict and realistic suspense, though the extensive passages detailing personal backgrounds at times slows the narrative momentum; however, this shouldn’t discourage sci-fi fans from diving into the drama or missing the payoffs as the devastating truth of this crew’s situation tests its survival and resolve in an exciting sequence of events.
The specifics of Keith’s timely plot revolving around space tourism and a global threat are best left for readers to discover. There’s a steady flow of nail-biting action and plenty of surprising twists, and Keith proves adept at seeding mysteries and leaving his audience eager for the next installment. Sci-fi fans interested in post-apocalyptic surprises and the adventure–and specifics– of travel to the edge of our atmosphere will relish this high-tension thriller.
Takeaway: Space exploration enthusiasts looking for a white-knuckle thrill ride into a post-apocalyptic world will enjoy this sci-fi thriller.
Great for fans of: Andy Weir, Poul Anderson.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
Few individuals doubt that space tourism is an enterprise of the future. Any entrepreneur will say that. Some may make predictions about when space tourism will become mainstream, but no one can deny the viability of this kind of business. Having this context in mind, Christopher Keith created the fictional book Balloon, which depicts the inaugural flight of a zero-pressure helium balloon, an enterprise that was only possible with money, persistence, and risk. If everything goes well, it could be the beginning of a new era for space tourism.
Unfortunately, the plan doesn't go as expected. Any conservative planner would draw a scenario where a balloon accident would occur, or maybe the initial results would not be that positive. Fair enough. However, what happens in this book while the crew is in the stratosphere is a chaotic scenario that not even the most pessimistic soul could ever imagine. I don't want to give spoilers, but the situation on the Earth's surface was so chaotic that the crew would put their financial interests in the background and focus on the most primitive needs of all living beings.
The most striking facet of this book is its originality. There are few books written about a crew traveling in a helium balloon in the stratosphere. What happens up there, however, is something unexpected that will make the plot incredibly fascinating. Since the reader is not expecting it, what happens in the middle of the book is more surreal than a zombie apocalypse and creates a delightful suspense atmosphere. I'm curious about what's going to happen in the sequel to this trilogy.
I liked every aspect of the book, and I can't pinpoint any flaws. It's professionally edited without typos or any style issues. There are some swear words, but nothing excessive. The story's unfolding justifies the use of some profanity since, in that context, the characters' last concern would be virtue signaling and puritanical language policing.
I gladly rate Balloon by Christopher Keith four out of four stars for its originality, good plot development, and lack of mistakes. The author achieved his goals in this first work of the trilogy and managed to leave the reader interested in the following events. As mentioned above, there is nothing negative to be highlighted. I recommend this work to all those who like apocalyptic stories about survivalism and primitive instincts. Although there are some swear words, they appear only sparsely and are not as severe either. That's why I recommend this work for ages 12 and up.