Title: The Comet’s Curse & The Web of Titan
Author: Dom Testa
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: November 2004 / December 2005
Paperback: 240 Pages / 272 Pages
The Comet’s Curse, Book 1
When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake. Suddenly, mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. Only those under the age of eighteen seem to be immune. Desperate to save humanity, a renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to create a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, the Galahad and its crew—none over the age of sixteen—is launched.
Two years of training have prepared the crew for the challenges of space travel. But soon after departing Earth, they discover that a saboteur is hiding on the Galahad! Faced with escalating acts of vandalism and terrorized by threatening messages, sixteen-year-old Triana Martell and her council soon realize that the stowaway will do anything to ensure that the Galahad never reaches its destination. The teens must find a way to neutralize their enemy. For if their mission fails, it will mean the end of the human race….
The Web of Titan, Book 2
When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake, and mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. A renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to build a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later,Galahad and its crew is launched. If their mission fails, it will be the end of the human race…
After triumphing over a saboteur bent on destroying Galahad, Triana and her Council are eager to avoid any further complications. But as Galahad swings around the ringed planet Saturn, they encounter a mysterious metal pod orbiting the moon of Titan. The teens prepare to bring the pod and its contents aboard, only to be faced with a another crisis: an illness that is beyond their medical experience. Dozens of crew members fall into a comatose state, only to awaken with strangely glowing eyes. To make matters worse, the systems of Galahad begin to fail. With time running out, can Triana and her shipmates escape the Web of Titan?
Stand alone or series: Books 1 and 2 in the Galahad series
How did I get these books: Review Copies from the Publisher
Why did I read these books: I’ve had the Galahad series on my radar for a while now, and when we were approached to do the Scavenger Hunt Blog Tour, it was finally time to give the books a shot.
In the not-too-distant future, a rogue comet is spotted by a group of amateur stargazers, one that would pass and just miss the Earth’s orbit by a few hundred thousand kilometers. The world watched in marvel as the tail of comet Bhaktul lit up the sky as it burned through the Earth’s atmosphere, causing a global light show of unparalleled beauty. Soon after the comet’s passage, however, people all over the planet start to exhibit flu-like symptoms, followed by respiratory distress and ultimately death. After months of the strange global pandemic, researchers discover that it was particles from the tail of Bhaktul that are responsible for the mounting deaths.
This earth-shattering discovery is followed by even grimmer news – there is no cure for Bhaktul’s wake, and there is no escape. The particles from the comet’s tail have permeated the global atmosphere, and it is only a matter of time – scant years – before everyone dies. The only exception to the illness? An inexplicable immunity in children under the age of 18. In a last ditch effort to save the human race, mankind unites in a project of incredible scope and daring vision – the creation of a space ship, called the Galahad, to shuttle 251 teens to a new home around a distant star. The best and the brightest from around the globe are selected for the mission, each groomed with specialties in different areas, from agriculture to fitness and nutrition, and after three years of preparation, the Galahad makes its historic launch and leaves Earth behind forever.
In The Comet’s Curse follows the launch of these 251 teens as they embark for the stars. Completely on their own for a mission of five years is no easy feat, but with a leader like Triana and a team of razor-sharp witted council members like Lita, Gap, and Bon, as well as with the help of a superintelligent navigational computer named Roc (with a wicked sense of humor), the journey is in good hands. That is…until shortly after launch, and one startled teen says he saw a man on the ship. And then the messages start – ominous notes left for the teens, acts of vandalism that threaten the safety and integrity of the ship. Someone has stowed away on The Galahad, and it’s up to the intrepid crew of teens to figure out who and stop him before it’s too late.
In Book 2, The Web of Titan, the crew of the Galahad has survived their stowaway encounter and have moved along their trip to the ringed gas giant Saturn, four months into their journey. Slingshotting around the planet, the crew also picks up a payload that has been left behind by a human research outpost studying moon Titan. The teens know nothing about Titan and the researchers there, just that the crew mysteriously lost contact with the Earth before the launch of the Galahad. Hannah, one of the science and math minded of the Galahad crew, notices an anomaly in the data emitting from Titan that must have something to do with the payload – a strange, but undeniable beam of energy that has been focused on the Galahad. When the crew intercept the pod left behind by Sat33, though, things aboard the ship are in danger once again. Some of the crew start to report migranes, followed by a period of coma and then awaken with bizarrely glowing eyes. The ship’s systems begin to malfunction, threatening the life support systems on the ship and the 251 souls aboard it. With time running out, it is up to the intrepid crew to discover the truth of the Sat33 team, and how the Galahad can avoid its fate.
Well folks, color me happy. I truly, honestly loved the first two books in this series and think I have a new obsession to burn through (hence this double review, since I couldn’t stop myself from reaching for The Web of Titan once I had finished The Comet’s Curse).
As far as apocalyptic scenarios go, astronomical disasters are my favorite flavor of the end of the world. I loved that Bhaktul’s particular brand of apocalypse means the end of the world, not through a dramatic impact of the planet, but through a slow killing disease from which there is no escape or cure, except off the Earth itself. The twin themes of these books are those of hope, and that is so damn cool in a post-apocalyptic novel. Essentially, the Galahad books are post-apocalyptic and incredibly sad – the Earth and all those souls on her surface have been obliterated. All vestiges of human civilization and its vast history and cultures will be lost forever as no one is safe from Bhaktul’s reach. But the efforts of humanity to preserve some memory of itself and to give children a chance at a future? That is awesome and shamelessly optimistic, and I’m not ashamed to say it warmed my jaded, science fiction loving heart. In The Comet’s Curse we flash back and forth between realtime on the Galahad as the teens leave earth behind and the past, as human adults squabble with politics and the reality of selecting a crew and preparing them for their journey. The time and perspective jumping technique is wonderfully effective, building tension and providing insight to the selection process and rationale behind the Galahad mission. In The Web of Titan, the narrative is linear and regularly structured, but every bit as engaging as the first novel as the stakes are upped and real danger faces our crew of heroes and heroines. Common to both books is the interspliced narration of Roc, the artificial intelligence that pilots and regulates the ship; a supercomputer with a lighthearted, wisecracking personality. To steal from a review of the series from Booklist on the jacket copy, Roc’s narration essentially is our Greek Chorus, adding narrative and thematic insight to the story (in an undeniably fun and slightly zany way).
Beyond the plotting, the actual science behind the story is engaging though on the lighter side, as actual technical aspects of space travel and technology are not fully explained. We know that this version of humanity can build a super spaceship capable of making it to the distant stars without too much trouble, and in just five years these teens will arrive at a distant solar system using a combination of ion engines and solar sails to get there, slingshotting around the large planets in the solar system to aid the speed at which the Galahad travels through space. There are talking supercomputers, artificial gravity devices, and so on, and the myriad problems of space travel (the slow reality of travel via propulsion engines, the atrophy effects of living in low gravity, the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation, the micrometeoroids that could pepper and devastate a ship) are handily ignored. That said, I actually like and appreciate the line that The Comet’s Curse and The Web of Titan straddle, not completely ignoring science, but implementing mysterious technologies that acknowledge and explain away any of those pesky issues that hamper space travel today.
And then, there are the characters. I *love* our diverse cast of crew members aboard the Galahad, both in terms of their widely different personalities, and with regard to their backgrounds and ethnicities. It makes sense that a last ditch group of humans should be from as diverse a genetic pool as possible, and the crew of the Galahad reflects that conscious choice, with characters from different parts of the world of different cultures, races, and creeds. My favorite of the crew is of course Triana (Tree), the leader of the Galahad mission, as she struggles with the burden of caring for her fellow shipmates. Of course, a ship full of teenager also means that there are romantic entanglements afoot, and I can’t help but also love Gap, the engineer Council member hopelessly in love with Tree (though he’s afraid to say anything to betray his feelings to the girl who is always in charge, cool and collected). Adding to the cast is the bubbly Channy (head of nutrition and well-being, urging everyone on the ship to stick to a strict exercise regimen), the quietly contemplative Lita (head of medical on the ship), and the surly Bon (agricultural leader with an attitude problem, and interestingly, one side of the inevitable love triangle between Triana and Gap). I love ensembles when they are done well, and the crew of the Galahad has the hallmarks of a great group cast. My only concern is that with such a large group of characters, time with each of them is brief, especially as the story expands to secondary and tertiary members. Over the six books of the series, however, I hope that we get to spend more time with each of the characters.
Overall, I really, really enjoyed this series, and I cannot wait to continue with the rest of the books. Absolutely recommended – if you haven’t heard of the Galahad books (or like me were momentarily thrown by the series covers), you should check it out.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1 of The Comet’s Curse:
There are few sights more beautiful. For all of the spectacular sunsets along a beach, or vivid rainbows arcing over a mist-covered forest, or high mountain pastures exploding with wildflowers, nothing could compare to this. This embraced every breath taking scene. Mother Earth, in all of her supreme glory, spinning in a showcase of wonder. No picture, no television image, no movie scene could ever do her justice. From two hundred miles up it’s spellbinding, hypnotic.
Which made saying good-bye even more difficult.
The ship sat still and silent in the cold, airless vacuum of space. It was a massive vessel, but against the backdrop of the planet below it appeared small, a child teetering at the feet of a parent, preparing to take its first steps. Soft, twinkling lights at the edges helped to define the shape which could not easily be described. Portions of it were boxy, others rectangular, with several curves and angles that seemed awkward. To an untrained eye it appeared as if it had simply been thrown together from leftover parts. In a way, that was true.
Its dark, grayish blue surface was speckled by hundreds of small windows. Two hundred fifty-one pairs of eyes peered out, eyes mostly wet with tears, getting a final glimpse of home. Two hundred fifty-one colonists sealed inside, and not one over the age of sixteen.
Their thoughts and feelings contained a single thread: each envisioned family members two hundred miles below, grouped together outside, staring up into the sky. Some would be shielding their eyes from the glare of the sun, unable to see the ship but knowing that it was up there, somewhere. Others, on the dark side of the planet, would be sifting through the maze of stars, hoping to pick out the quiet flicker of light, pointing, embracing, crying.
Many were too ill and unable to leave their beds, but were likely gazing out their own windows, not wanting to loosen the emotional grip on their son or daughter so far away.
The day filled with both hope and dread had arrived.
With a slight shudder, the ship came to life. It began to push away from the space station where it had been magnetically tethered for two years. Inside the giant steel shell there was no sensation of movement other than the image of the orbiting station gradually sliding past the windows. That was enough to impress upon the passengers that the voyage had begun.
Galahad had launched.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
From Chapter 1 of The Web of Titan:
The storm raged quietly along the surface, a swirl of colors colliding, mixing, weaving. Layers of gas clouds tumbled across one another, their brilliant shades of red and purple highlighted by short bursts of lightning. Winds galloped along at more than a thousand miles per hour, stirring the atmosphere and keeping the roiling chaos churning in much the same way it had for billions of years.
Above it all drifted the jeweled rings, chunks of ice and dust that varied in size between grains of sand and ten-story buildings. Their dense orbits stretched out hundreds of thousands of miles, occasionally sparkling like a crown in the dim sunlight while casting a thin, dark shadow across the face of the storms. The tightly packed debris in the rings rolled along, nudging and shoving, forever keeping watch over the unruly gas giant below.
Saturn toiled along.
Scattered near and far, its squadron of moons maintained their dutiful orbits, subjects kneeling before the majesty of the king, tossed about by the immense gravitational tugs and seared by the overwhelming inferno of radiation. Several dozen of these minor bodies drifted near Saturn’s dazzling rings, themselves a product of an earlier moon that had been shattered by a rogue asteroid or comet, the pieces now trapped in a mindless dance that circled the giant planet.
Keeping a respectful distance, and shrouded in a cloak of dense atmosphere, the largest of these moons obediently tracked through the vacuum of space, cutting a path that kept it clear of the rings. Dwarfed by the Herculean planet, it still laid claim to its own cloud system and weather patterns. Rather than water, its rivers and oceans were pools of liquid methane, carving channels and shorelines that dotted the surface, a surface impossible to see through the screen of haze and fog. An eerie orange glow masked the surface, bathing it in a dull light that made the large moon seem almost alive, breathing.
As it circled Saturn, a route that took it a little more than two weeks to complete, Titan had its own companion in space. Right now, in an artificial orbit, a metallic pod shot around Titan, spinning slowly as it navigated, the light from Saturn occasionally glancing off its sides, mixing with the orange tint of the moon to form a ghostly shade. The smooth steel of the pod was uniform except for two small windows on one end, and exhaust ports on the other. During its slow, deliberate trek around the moon, block lettering could be made out on one side, along with small emblems of flags that lined up under a window. Inside it was dark, quiet, waiting.
It would not be quiet, nor waiting, much longer.
You can read the full excerpt from The Web of Titan online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Make sure to check out our stop on the official Galahad Legacy scavenger hunt blog tour for a chance to win a full set of the books! The contest runs until Saturday at midnight.
The Comet’s Curse – 7 Very Good
The Web of Titan – 7 Very Good
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