When he was eight a traumatic event forever changed Ken’s life, alienating him from close contact with other people. But, like his grandfather, a NASA engineer, rockets were in his blood, and when he met Akira, like him, a child prodigy, he makes his first friend since his grandfather died. Together, Ken and Akira assembled a group of other kids who were interested in science and rockets, and together, they push the boundaries of rocket science beyond what even adults were capable of. Then, Ken met Dawn, the girl involved in the traumatic event. He had saved her life during a mudslide in which her mother died, and since that night had been trying to find the brave boy who saved her. Ken, though, is unable to identify himself to her, even though he’s falling in love with her, a situation made more problematic when it turns out that she’s interested in aeronautics and is invited to join their group.
Ken and Akira are determined to put one of their homemade rockets in orbit, and through a series of machinations manage to launch it from Lost Coast, an isolated locale. Unfortunately, this puts them in the crosshairs of the FBI, forcing them to keep their great accomplishment a secret.
Lost Coast Rocket by Joel Horn is an ambitious first novel. Though the prose is a bit overwritten at the start, and some of the flashbacks are too long, by the middle, when Ken is working to develop a rocket capable of taking a man into deep space and coming to terms with his feelings for Dawn, the narrative picks up considerably and the writing is lean and fast paced.
The ending, while technically not a cliff hanger, leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. Ken is on a one-way mission, and Dawn is left on earth knowing that the man she loves is forever out of her reach. The author has included a teaser from the second book in the series, so we know that Ken doesn’t die, but we’re only given a peek at what happens next.
This is a hard book to categorize. It’s part science fiction, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story. Thanks to the flashbacks, we have a good insight into the main characters, but this could have been provided with far less verbiage. I found myself skipping over a lot of the flashbacks, anxious to get back to the action.
Despite what might sound like negative criticism, I found the story quite entertaining, and give it three and a half stars.