Today I want to discuss a two-book series that I recently finished, Oxygen and The Fifth Man. These books were co-written by Randall Ingermanson and John B. Olson. While preparing for the conference, I tried to read a book by each of the authors who would be teaching mentoring classes. I was blown away by Randy Ingermanson's book, Transgression, and so I quickly requested him for my mentor. When I was researching the authors, his name came up under the category Christian--Science Fiction. I remember thinking...whoa, does such a genre really exist? Well, Randy doesn't like to be called a science fiction author. I'm trying to remember the term he used -- was it intellectual fiction? Suspense? I don't remember his term -- sorry Randy, I was focusing on all the other good stuff you were teaching.
Anyway, I excitedly started in on Oxygen. It's the story of a troubled NASA mission during which an explosion damages the vessel while in route to Mars. The crew must figure out how to survive on the oxygen that is left -- enough for only one. They are also haunted by the fear that one of them may be the saboteur. I found myself still turning pages at 3:00 am, furious that I could not put down the book until I learned if the crew survived. The fact that the crew is forced to explore (and expand) their faith was simply icing on the cake of a great story.
I held off reading the sequel for a few months. I was so pleased with the ending of Oxygen that I was afraid to return to their story, knowing the authors would be forced to shake them up again for the sake of a good plot. The Fifth Man is a very different story. The discovery of fossilized bacteria on the planet leads to fears of contamination, and strange noises and sightings unleash terror that they might not be alone. Is the saboteur back? Are they having illness-induced hallucinations? Or is there intelligent life on Mars? If there is, it certainly doesn't seem friendly.
I found this second book unnerving, but certainly as entertaining as the first. I nearly panicked one afternoon when I spotted a swift movement out of the corner of my eye. It turned out to be our neighborhood squirrel. Oops. No unpleasant aliens in my back yard. Yet.
For not being "science fiction," these books certainly had their share of science. I was fascinated by the scientific detail (and being written by a physicist and a biochemist, that's to be expected) but it did not overwhelm the story. The books are loaded with suspense, romance, faith, and imagination.
I give them two thumbs up. Unless you are an alien, then it would be two antennae up, right?