Frank searches for clues about the mysterious pod’s origins while struggling with the ghosts of his past, namely, a mysterious “uncle” who claimed he and Sartori were sent by otherworldly “Beings” as part of an experiment. In the course of his inquiries, he uncovers others who might be like himself, including Asumi, whose baffling past left her orphaned and traumatized in an internment camp. The story takes a while to get going,but once enough clues have dropped the suspense is powerful, though Costanzo doesn’t avoid the feeling of the infodump when explaining the Beings, and readers might find the ending overly ambiguous.
The 1950s backdrop helps build the slow tension, as the cast works within both the limits of technology and the geopolitical reality. However, the heart of the story is in its characters and their emotional depths: Frank’s rational mind is tempered by compassion for a lost soul who reminds him of his own past, Bobcat’s blunt demeanor comes with sharp intelligence and a fierce desire for justice, and inquisitive Kate holds her own as a character with agency, sometimes helping and sometimes at odds with Frank. Readers will be left questioning the possibility of life in other parts of the universe as well as our own purpose on Earth.
Takeaway: This ‘50s SF mystery offers slow-burning suspense, an otherworldly journey, and compelling characters.
Great for fans of: Douglas E. Richards’s Unidentified, Michael C. Grumley’s The Desert of Glass.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
"Geodysseus is a Cold War thriller with science-fiction underpinnings that charts the exploits of Dr. Frank Sartori as he investigates an enigmatic artifact that has been discovered in the Nevada desert.
A mysterious cargo-pod has been found in Death Valley, puzzling government agencies investigating its provenance. Is the container extra-terrestrial or the property of Russian operatives spying on their American counterparts? Map coordinates of sites near the container have been determined following the partial decoding of a strange disc discovered on the pod. These locations may provide information that could help unlock the pod’s secrets.
Enter Dr. Frank Sartori, working for the Atomic Energy Commission, whose task is to investigate the coordinates for clues. Aided by Army Corps of Engineers’ surveyor “Bobcat” Babcock, Sartori sets about uncovering a series of puzzles related to the pod and its technologically advanced magnetic capabilities.
Initially, Geodysseus reads like a by-the-numbers, Cold War science-fiction mystery about America’s 1950s’ atomic anxiety. But it soon becomes apparent that Sartori’s quest isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It turns out he has a personal connection to the pod; thus, his motive for deciphering it goes beyond mere scientific curiosity. As he travels the desert seeking answers, his sanity and identity come under scrutiny, and the book becomes about Sartori’s psychological and spiritual quest.
Sartori is a complex character whose scientific scholarliness is occasionally unfathomable. Thankfully, fellow travellers Bobcat and Kate Wilson, a journalist looking to break the story in the local press (and a potential love interest for Sartori), serve as counterweights to Sartori’s intellectualism. Kate also provides the narrative with compassion as her reporting highlights the impact of atomic anxiety on the wider community.
Geodysseus is a fine novel, buoyed by the author’s reader-friendly prose, bantering dialogue and empathetic characterizations. While the narrative may not have the propulsive qualities of a paranoid spy thriller, it remains a gripping, contemplative and intellectual read that will appeal to science-fiction and thriller fans alike" - Blueink Review.
Joe CostanzoGiuseppe Costanzo (Feb 22, 2022)
Softcover $12.99 (250pp)978-0-578-33953-5
Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
In the musing science fiction novel Geodysseus, a scientist races to uncover the truth about a vehicle that crashed in the desert.
In Joe Costanzo’s science fiction novel Geodysseus, a Death Valley find prompts fears of a Russian attack.At the height of the Cold War, the Atomic Energy Commission sends Frank off to investigate sites in Death Valley. The coordinates he’s asked to track were gleaned from wreckage of unknown provenance. Due to the cryptic nature of this evidence, the American government fears Russian involvement.Frank scours several locations with a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, Bobcat. The men learn that each coordinate they’re tracing indicates another piece of the item’s wreckage, each seeming to be a component needed to power the device back on. Then Frank discovers that the writing in the wreckage is identical to the symbols engraved on his uncle’s briefcase. The book’s sense of mystery deepens as Frank struggles to understand his own connection to the potential extraterrestrial object he’s helping to rebuild.In this measured tale, Frank goes up against mindless bureaucracies more so than anyone else, and he is most impeded by a lack of information. He’s forced to keep his secrets close, and he opens up to Bobcat alone. Together, they worry about the secret of the wreckage getting out.Vibrant details about nuclear tests and the quiet, dangerous desert are both surreal and grounding, while Frank’s uncle’s notions of creation are strange, leading him to misappropriate university funds to construct related devices. Frank’s lack of childhood memories is an enticing part of the puzzle. In comparison to these narrative features, though, Frank and Bobcat’s exchanges with each other and others are sterile in tone—even though the duo’s friendship is a source of abiding strength.As the book progresses, its science fiction and Cold War-era intrigue elements give way to a more personal story about Frank’s pursuit of ultimate truth, particularly as it relates to the wrecked object and his family stories. Frank’s sanity is tested during his travels in the desert, especially as he connects with locals who tell their own versions of the truth.
By its end, the book has become akin to a contemplative quest. In the book’s thrilling conclusion, all of the questions posed throughout the book are answered.
Reviewed by John M. Murray April 6, 2022
"In this 1950s-set, SF–infused novel, a physicist discovers a personal connection to the otherworldly object he’s investigating.
The CIA doesn’t know what to make of the old wreckage of a domed container, possibly a cargo pod. Someone unearthed it near the Nevada Test Site, making communist-hating America fear the Russians have been up to no good. Answers may lie with a metal disk found inside the container and with four sets of coordinates marking areas surrounding the wreckage. Dr. Frank Sartori of the Atomic Energy Commission scours Western desert landscapes for each location. What he discovers sparks wild theories, such as the pod is extraterrestrial and carried a now-missing passenger. But it’s the strange symbols on the disk that the physicist finds truly spellbinding. They’re identical to the ones on the aluminum attaché case of his uncle, the man who raised him and cryptically asserted that they both were “not of this world.” Working with Bob “Bobcat” Babcock, a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, Sartori aims to unravel the mysteries of the pod, which is seemingly capable of creating energy from magnetic fields, and deciphering his bizarre link to it. Costanzo’s story deftly drops assorted puzzles at Sartori’s feet. Along with his AEC investigation, he must deal with his dreams, which teem with inexplicable images (for example, an unknown man at a bus stop), and his uncle’s abrupt disappearance. The tale is generally easygoing, as the protagonist doesn’t face sinister forces. But he does struggle to trust people, even immensely likable Bobcat and a local newspaper reporter named Kate Wilson who doubles as a potential romantic interest. The author couples a measured pace with vibrant prose, such as nuclear tests producing “a glowing orange sphere inside of an iridescent, billowing gray cloud.” Costanzo also aptly infuses real life into the narrative, from people constantly worrying about atomic bombs and radiation to characters mentioning famous baseball teams and players and TV series. The superb ending resolves some of the questions that readers will be asking.
An enthralling blend of mystery and SF with a striking hero." - Kirkus Reviews