The Implosion Effect

Author: Gary Paulsen
Publisher: Major Books
Published: 1976

Time for a little more ‘volcano’ action, however this time the villains are not housed in a hollowed out volcano. Instead, the crater of a dormant volcano is used to create a giant, illegal satellite tracking dish. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The Implosion Effect is a trashy piece of pulp fiction from the mid seventies, and although many tropes that you’d find in spy fiction are present, the book barely qualifies as a spy novel until the last twenty-five pages.

As the story begins, Jason Theiss has been going through a patch of bad luck. First, a divorce from his wife, then he lost his job. Actually losing his job was a side effect of the divorce. After losing his wife, he hit the bottle, and his employer gave him an ultimatum – clean up your act or lose your job. Theiss chose the bottle, and consequently, for the last eights weeks has been unemployed.

Previously he had been employed as an engineer at a Lockheed satellite tracking station – but that’s all history now.

One evening, while getting drunk and maudlin on the balcony of his Malibu beach house (life’s tough for unemployed alcoholics), a boat makes anchor in front of his house. Two men get in a dinghy and row to shore. One of the men approaches Theiss and produces a gun, and demands that he accompany them.

Theiss reluctantly obeys and goes with the men to the boat. The two goons who have abducted Theiss are just lackeys who have been paid to retrieve Theiss and bring him before a man named Alan Gunderson. Off the bat, Gunderson gives Theiss one-hundred-thousand dollars, and explains that he represents a consortium that want to build a secret tracking station to monitor the satellites orbiting overhead. With the information that is gleaned, the consortium hope to be able to make a killing at the stock market. For another four-hundred-thousand dollars, as payment, they wish to hire Theiss to build them their tracking station.

Theiss agrees. The transmitter is to be built on a small island in the Pacific, which happens to be an extinct volcano. The crater of the volcano, once covered in tin foil, is to be used as ta fixed tracking dish. Not very high-tech, but effective.

To help with the project, Theiss is assigned four technicians, all specialists in their field, but when a body washes up on shore (with a bullet hole in the head), it appears that someone working on the project is a killer.

There is a little bit of ‘dodgy logic’ to the story. When the first dead body (the first of many) turns up, Theiss should have just got off the island and left the project. I appreciate that half a million dollars is a lot of money, but what’s the good of all that money if you’re not alive to spend it.

The Implosion Effect is a fairly decent – if in no way remarkable – pulp fiction spy novel. It is written in ‘first person’ with wise cracks coming thick and fast. The story is fast paced, and has an exciting potboiler ending – although no where near as vigorous and exciting as the cover art would have you believe. The Implosion Effect would never win any literary awards, but it is a pleasant enough diversion for a few hours.

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The Implosion Effect

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