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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Final Impact
by Yvonne Navarro
Bantam
US $5.99/469 pp.
ISBN 0-553-56360-2

Admittedly, we are in the throes of apocalyptic marketing frenzy, and Yvonne Navarro's Final Impact is just one of many books out or coming out to use the "Millennium"-mark as a theme. (In fact, the original title was Millennium's Dark Embrace.) In this case, as the century turns to triple naughts, "Millennium" is the name given a rogue planet that breaks into pieces in the vicinity of Jupiter sending big chunks of doom directly toward Earth. Planet, meteor, worlds in collision -- nothing new -- but Navarro delivers cataclysm with a focus on characters and a plot that owes as much to horror as it does to astrophysics. Unlike science in science fiction, science seldom saves the world in horror. Good can triumph over evil, but the world itself is not so much "saved" as somehow changed forever by the struggle. Navarro plays with this ultimate horror plot by imbuing her good guys with psychic powers while, by the end, the bad guys seem to be turning into pseudo-vampires, werewolves, cannibals, and psychokillers.

But that all comes later. What comes first and what makes the book work are characters we meet and get to know: Blind and orphaned Indian-Mexican Gena can foretell the future. Simon Chanowitz can read minds. He grows up to be a social worker who tries to stop the kind of abuse he suffered as a child. Mercy is a part Chinese, part Jewish healer who becomes a doctor. Black Lamont is a lawyer with telekinetic powers. Best of all we meet Lily, a deranged punk bitch who Mercy heals and who, assisted by the knives up her black leather sleeves, is smart enough and tough enough to manage the world on her own, but loyal enough and fragile enough to love. (And there are at least another eight fascinating secondary characters.)

For a disaster novel to work, the reader must have people to care about, to root for and who have some hope of surviving in what is an otherwise hopeless situation. Navarro gives us that right from page one and sustains it through 469 more pages. She gives us detailed backgrounds for each of the four main characters and introduces six of the eight secondary characters even before we find out anything about the rogue planet Millennium.

We know, to an extent, what's going to happen as soon as we learn that Millennium has been torn into several pieces by Jupiter's gravitational pull, but we don't know exactly how these characters are going to fit into the scenario. Navarro sets the stage and includes the Earth itself as a "character" protecting what life it can: people are running amuck, anything female seems to be getting pregnant. It's obvious the center cannot hold and by the time Millenium comes to call, all we need to know are the basics and how the disaster is going to effect our people. Navarro offers it up without a blink and gets on with the folks we care about.

With the world literally brought to a standstill the heroes struggle and remain pure of heart, the bad guys get nastier and the survival game is afoot. Earth is divided into eternal darkness and unending light, with a narrow strip of gray for humanity to survive in. And if the gray is a little too Edenesque, we don't care. The good guys have deserved a little happiness and besides, the bad guys are out there mutating in the dark (or maybe the light, we don't know) and are sure to be trouble enough for our hardy band and all their babies.

Navarro, as she did with vampires in AfterAge and zombies in deadrush, once again offers us a premise that has been has seemingly been played out in several novels before. But she makes the game her own and racks up enough points for Final Impact (and the reader) to be a winner. -- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.