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John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson
Bethany House Publishers, 368 pages

John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson
John B. Olson received his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1995, and did postdoctoral work in computational biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. He lives with his wife and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works for a biotechnology company and heads the writing group SCUM (Super Cool Underwriting Maniacs).

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Randall Ingermanson earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1986, and did postdoctoral research in superstring theory at The Ohio State University. He lives in San Diego with his wife and three daughters and works as a computational physicist. He is the author of a time-travel novel, Transgression, as well as a non-fiction book, Who Wrote the Bible Code?

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Bethany House

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Suzanne Krein

Life can hold many kinds of crises. Physical crises can include natural disasters or serious illnesses. Emotional crises may be created by broken relationships or by personality conflicts. Crises of faith can arise when these other kinds of predicaments cause us to question or doubt our faith. Oxygen contains all of these types. As the title suggests, there is one basic emergency that we all fear: the lack of oxygen. This idea is woven through this near-future science fiction novel.

Valkerie Jansen is a strong woman, the type who copes well with emergencies. As a microbial ecologist, she has had to deal with many critical situations, most recently the impending eruption of a volcano. When sulfur dioxide from the volcano robs her of breathable air, she breathes the air from her jeep's tires using the valves! NASA considers her to be a prime candidate for the first manned mission to Mars. No one knows that she is prepared to cope with every catastrophe except for the spiritual one confronting her.

Bob Kaganovski is a fixer. He likes to fix the electrical and mechanical equipment aboard a spacecraft. This makes Bob an excellent choice for mission specialist aboard the Mars mission, a good man to have around during an emergency. No one realizes that Bob is struggling with other worries that are psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Each time Bob tries to "fix" one of them, his choices place himself and the crew of the Ares 10 into deeper danger.

When Valkerie and Bob are thrown together as mission specialists on the mission to Mars, their spiritual and emotional predicaments crash, creating shock waves of fear and mistrust that threaten the safety of each person on the Ares 10. Added to this turmoil is a mystery: who is sabotaging the Ares 10 and attempting to prevent the first man (or woman) from walking on the surface of Mars?

In Oxygen, Olson and Ingermanson create a story that has a sense of reality that causes the reader to feel a part of the unfolding events surrounding the next important event in human history: a visit to another planet. The science was so well researched that I believed that Valkerie, Bob, and the others were really aboard the Ares 10, journeying towards Mars. The growing sense of nail-biting tension was so real that it kept me on the edge of my seat.

The strength of Oxygen, however, goes beyond the excellent research and well-constructed plot that made the story believable. The characters are also strong and believable. How refreshing to read a story where the characters deal with real crises of faith without stereotypes or apologies! Valkerie and Bob's turmoil hits home with each of us because we each struggle with our own crises of faith. The resolutions to their predicaments can encourage us during our troubled times because these resolutions ring true.

Copyright © 2001 Suzanne Krein

Suzanne Krein is a free-lance curriculum writer with a life-long passion -- reading and writing science fiction, especially Christian science fiction. She lives with her family in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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