CSFF Blog Tour – The Return, Day 1

Before we get started talking about our blog tour feature for September, I need to pass along some information I promised to mention. For the next three days, over at Alien Dream, Merrie Destefano is running an interview with yours truly (go figure—some people are just hard up for blog content, I guess! 😉 ) Anyway, stop by and leave a comment. She has lots of other material, so you just might get lost in the fun.

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Today, over at Speculative Faith I wrote an introduction to our CSFF BT September feature, The Return (NavPress) by Austin Boyd. I had heard early on that the trilogy of which this is a part, the Mars Hill Classified, was the one-story-in-three-books kind, so I decided I would read the books in order.

It didn’t hurt my motivation any that I’d also had the privilege of meeting Austin several years ago at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. In God’s providence, I ended up sitting next to him in an early-bird session geared to teaching unpublished authors how to pitch their projects to editors. Towards the end of the workshop, Austin was one of several who volunteered to give his pitch and receive critique. It didn’t take much to realize that he had what editors were looking for.

The following year when I attended Mount Hermon, sure enough, I also had the privilege of getting my copy of The Evidence, Book One of the Mars Hill Classified trilogy, autographed.

All that as a lead-in to my decision to review each of the books, one a day, as my contribution to the blog tour. As you’d expect, I’m starting with The Evidence.

The Story. Fighter pilot and astronaut candidate John “Hawk” Wells learns he has been accepted to the space program and is headed for the space station. While he and his crew orbit the earth, a series of terrorist attacks occur back home, setting in motion political intrigue, religious upheaval, and criminal investigations. From his vantage point in space, Hawk has a unique perspective that allows him to postulate an idea that helps set the FBI looking in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Hawk has to deal with his own problems—the difficulty of leaving his wife and four children while he pursues what he knows to be his God-given purpose. He also has to face temptation in the form of a needy, vulnerable female crew member.

Strengths. The story is compelling, especially if you like intrigue (and I do) and suspense. For those science fiction fans, there is plenty of technology here, too, though this first book begins only four years in the future. Of the three books, this one feels less like science fiction and more like a suspense story than the others, simply because the topic of life on Mars is open for debate. But the seeds are there for the science to take off (and it does).

Generally I’d say I am not a sci fi fan, yet I had no trouble enjoying this story. Austin’s writing is concise for the most part, and clear. I understood weightlessness better than I ever have before and marveled how much Austin gave readers the sense of being in space.

Weaknesses. I’m feeling a little like a broken record. As with a number of Christian novels, I had a hard time feeling connected with the protagonist at first. Now that I am into the third book, that’s changed, but in the beginning, I didn’t feel like I had enough to care strongly for him.

Part of that comes, I believe, as a result of a wide variety of points of view, including numerous segments from the antagonist’s perspective. Couple that with the fact that each segment is relatively short and that some are about people we do not initially see as “fitting in,” it was a little hard to keep everyone straight and to care enough about Hawk.

Recommendation. Because I knew this was an old-fashioned trilogy, I understood that some of the segments were “set-up” and because they were brief, I didn’t feel overly burdened with material that seemed irrelevant. Instead, I could file those pieces away for the future when they became key. And by the way, because of Austin’s writing style, I found those segments interesting even though I couldn’t see what part they played.

For sci fi fans wanting a story from a Christian perspective, this book is a must read. For others, I highly recommend The Evidence.

And now, take some time this week to see what other bloggers have to say about The Return:

Published in: on September 17, 2007 at 12:33 pm  Comments (7)  


  1. No one is less of a sci-fi fan than me, Becky, and I actually loved this trilogy. I’ve only met Austin via e-mail, but he seems like an absolute great guy–I can imagine there’s quite a bit of “Hawk” in him.

    A lot of times when authors take on such ambitious plots, as I think you’d agree this one is on so many fronts, they fail to pull it off at some level. Come the end of the series, there was only one tiny strand left dangling just a hair. Some people might not even notice or think it mattered.

    Good books!


  2. Ack! This is so embarrassing. I did NOT realize this was the third book. I’ve been so busy and since I had only recently heard about Austin Boyd and this book, assumed it was the first in the series. But I’ve already started reading it so I can’t put i down and go back to read the first two. SCREAM.


  3. Hi Becky,

    Classes (or so far, just class) is going well. Most of the general ed credits from my nursing degree transferred! Yeah! Next semester I’m planning on taking more.

    And YES! it’s definitely too bad I can’t work reading for the CSFF blog tours into my coursework! That’s the biggest reason I haven’t read this series. I didn’t find out about it until the tour info was initially posted and knew I wouldn’t have the time to read it. 😦 Drats.

    So posts on the blog tour will just have to do. For now. There’s always Christmas break, right? lol


  4. Becky-

    I like your idea of starting with book 1 and working through the series giving your impressions of the books. I’ll have to keep that in the back of my head when I’ve been around long enough to have actually read some of the books when we post tours.


  5. Nicole, I suspect you are right—I think there is a good deal of Hawk in Austin, as the interviews he’s doing show. I’m still working on book 3, so I’ll be interested to see how it ties it all up. Still so much I can’t figure how, not least of all is 321.

    Soooorry, Beth. Wish I’d known to warn you sooner.

    Cheryl, glad to hear the good news about the transfer of your nursing school credits, at least. That should mean you’ll be through with classes in no time! I hope you can sneak in a little fun reading now and then. Next month’s is a YA/Juvenile book. It’s a fast, fun read, so you might try that one if you don’t have a book started.

    Melissa, I’m trying to do a better job alerting people when we’re doing a book in the middle of a series. Obviously I don’t have it down yet! But if I can remember to tell CSFF’ers, they at least have a chance to read the other books. BTW, we have them listed at the CSFF Store—which most people probably don’t even know we have. We’re not doing this for profit, so I have a hard time mentioning it. Don’t want people to misunderstand.



  6. >>No one is less of a sci-fi fan than me, Becky, and I actually loved this trilogy.<<

    I am finding this comment in a lot of places. I think in part it has to do with what the public has come to associate with science fiction and what many science fiction writers think they need to do. I think too often we have associated science fiction with action-adventure, phasers firing and space ships bursting into flames (neat trick with no oxygen). But much of science fiction deals with the impact of science on people and society.

    This is science fiction in the tradition of A.C.Clarke and Isaac Asimov. In other words fiction rooted in science. I just wrote a blog entry about this.


  7. […] not changing my mind at all about my recommendation of the series. You can read those reviews here, here, and here. But the truth is, Book 3 of the Mars Hill Classified series may have suffered from […]


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