A conventional but quick-witted sci-fi tale that suffers from a mild case of genre confusion.
In the summer of 1947, two alien craft battle in the skies over the American Southwest and crash into the desert plains, leaving the U.S. government with both evidence of extraterrestrial life and a significant mystery to cover up. Though government officials are only able to lay their hands on one of the two spacecrafts, and though they are able to gain entrance to the ship only after decades of failed attempts, the ship’s alien technology eventually provides them with a treasure trove of highly advanced machinery, from super-powered weapons systems to holographic cloaking instruments to cold-fusion energy devices. (Phillips, who has a master’s degree in physics, effectively manipulates the scientific jargon, making these new technological leaps credible.) Fast forward to the present, when the government finally decides to reveal to the public the existence of the spaceship. As the world tries to come to terms with the torrent of incipient innovations to be unleashed by the United States, three teens wandering the New Mexico plains stumble upon the titular spaceship. Their discovery lands them in the middle of an international (and cosmic) maelstrom, and sets a cadre of government agents, killers and spies on their trail. The author’s main weakness is his inability to figure out his audience. Is the book adult sci-fi espionage, as the high technological diction and occasional violence suggest? Or is it a teen novel, aimed at readers who are the same age as the ostensible protagonists?
Audience issues aside, The Second Ship deserves a second installment.