As a massive asteroid bears down on Earth, amateur astronomer Floyd Dunbar is on his own collision course with a dangerous criminal in Paulson’s (Quiet Desperation, 2012) latest novel.
The stoic 75-year-old Floyd Dunbar is just waiting for his number to be called. One year ago, his daughter Alice died from cancer, and nine years before that, he lost his beloved wife Katherine to the same disease. His Trenton, N.J., neighborhood, Little Poland, has also seen better days. He spends his evenings viewing the heavens through a telescope he named Tiresias, with his beloved cat, Leo, by his side. One night, he comes to the aid of his cancer-stricken neighbor, Dorothy, and gets involved in a dispute with a thug named Constantine, the leader of a Polish crime gang in the neighborhood. Later, Dunbar reviews pictures taken with Tiresias, and discovers a massive asteroid barreling through the solar system. Paulson brings an interesting twist to the asteroid-apocalypse tale as Dunbar’s escalating battle with Constantine is set against the drama of the nearing asteroid. Unfortunately, the narrative too often gets bogged down by awkward sentence structure, unlikeable characters and plodding pacing. The novel also depicts mundane tasks at length, slowing the story’s flow. For example, Dunbar takes a drive to Princeton to email a photo of his asteroid to an expert, and the journey is described in exhausting detail. Moreover, Dunbar’s backstory is too slowly revealed, making it hard for readers to put his early actions into context, and his immediate conviction that a final stand-off with Constantine is inevitable seems melodramatic. That said, the author will likely keep readers curious about how Dunbar will resolve his conflict with the neighborhood goon.
A readable, if disjointed, suspense novel.