A Book Spy Review: ‘Obscura’ by Joe Hart

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ObscuraSet in the year 2028, Doctor Gillian Ryan fights back against a devastating new disease running rampant, affecting countless innocent lives, in Joe Hart’s new standalone novel, Obscura.

A super form of dementia is slowly moving across humanity like a plague, leaving a pile of bodies in its wake. For neural radiologist Gillian Ryan, finding a cure to the deadly disease is more than just a job, it’s inherently personal as she’s already lost her husband to it and now faces the very real possibility of losing her eight-year-old daughter, Carrie, as well. The disease, known as Losian’s disease, presents itself much like Alzheimer’s, affecting patients neurologically, though it progresses much faster than anything doctors and scientists have seen before. 

When her own private funding dries up, Ryan is given the chance to get out of the lab and be part of a NASA team that’s heading to a space station where, coincidentally, crew members have begun showing early signs of Losian’s disease. Though agreeing to go on the mission means near-unlimited amounts of funding and top-notch equipment, thanks to NASA picking up the tab, Doctor Ryan is apprehensive about leaving her daughter for obvious reasons.

Traveling to the space station, which is located in close proximity to Mars, is no walk in the park. But, by leaving the planet to study affected subjects, Doctor Ryan can do things not deemed legal on earth. That unrestricted access to research could be the difference between finding a cure or watching Losian’s continue to decimate humanity. Ultimately, Gillian decides that the prospect of developing a cure to save Carrie warrants her leaving, and she takes the NASA gig, hoping to return home in a few months with the ability to save her daughter and countless others. 

With her mission set, Ryan travels to the space station where, almost immediately, she discovers that nothing is quite what it seems. . . and nothing could have prepared her for the horrors that wait or the secrets space has to offer. 

Joe Hart does a fine job mixing sci-fi and horror elements into this unpredictable thriller, which falls somewhere between Matt Richtel’s Dead on Arrival and Life, the Ryan Reynolds space flick that features an equally terrifying plot. There’s a lot of misdirection, and Hart knows how to build suspense. His twisting plot will keep readers off-balance and dying to know how things will play out. Likewise, his lead character here, Gillian Ryan, is no cookie-cutter heroine. She’s deeply flawed and, at times, even a tad unlikeable. Still, it’s clear what drives Ryan — and readers will no doubt root for her as she heads into the dark unknown. 

It’s probably not for everyone, but those seeking an off-planet sci-fi thriller with a haunting plotline will devour Joe Hart’s Obscura, which reads quick and is jam-packed with terrifying surprises. 

Book Details

Author: Joe Hart
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1503949893
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: May 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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