Thursday Reviews: Hangar 18 by Jennette Marie Powell; Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

Hangar 18 

Jennette Marie Powell

Full disclosure: I adopted the author as my Li’l Sis back during the Reagan administration.

Lisa Stark is a software engineer working on subliminal training for the Air Force. One of the officers overseeing the project is Adam Keller. Captain Keller has a problem. Aliens are in his head. Well, one of them. Normally, this would be a cue for someone to check into the nearest psych ward for rest and some sweet meds. There are two problems with that assessment. First off, Keller really is telepathic. It’s a classified secret, but Keller can, in fact, read minds. The other problem is that alien. His grandfather was one of the doctors who examined the crash survivors from Roswell. And they’re still alive, kept in cold storage in Wright-Patterson’s infamous Hangar 18.

Powell’s first two novels, Time’s Enemy and Time’s Fugitive, were paranormal romances. This one is as well, but unlike the previous novels, the science fiction elements are played down a bit here. The premise is established early on, and it serves primarily to complicate the attraction between Lisa and Adam. But she still manages to juggle a lot of balls: Government cover-ups, the very real specter of job loss as a contractor, and the local color around Wright-Patt. A couple of the characters, Tom Rand, come off a little flat. Rand was a bit annoying until about halfway through the book. A killer named Skinner, whom Adam has dealt with before, instead seemed like a missed opportunity. He’s a dark personality who could have provided another angle to Keller, who would have to deal with his animalistic mindset. However, I was surprised by Colonel Canfield, who promised to be a stock ice princess and turned out to be a rather sympathetic and complex character.

Lisa and Adam, however, sell this. Both have well-drawn backstories that Powell teases out over the course of the novel. Lisa was adopted by a soldier who rescued her from Vietnam as a small child while Adam requested a posting at Wright-Patt to take care of his dying grandfather and his ailing wife. His interaction with the alien drives him to the point of exhaustion, especially since he spends the first third of the book wondering who is in his head and making him freeze in 90-degree weather. What I particularly liked was Lisa’s reasoning for building a rather dangerous application. She is driven by the death of her brother in Afghanistan and believes something like she’s designed would have saved his life.

Sh*t My Dad Says
Justin Halpern

This is not the William Shatner comedy, but that show was based on this. Justin Halpern, a columnist for Maxim, found himself in his hometown of San Diego without a place to live and moved back in with his dad. Over time, he started noticing his father, a blunt, opinionated research doctor, would say the damnedest things and not really care what people thought. He soon turned this into a Twitter feed that unexpectedly went viral. This led to a book deal and, of course, a sitcom starring Shatner.

The show was primarily a vehicle for Shatner’s comedic talents. The real dad, Sam Halpern, is very different from Shatner’s almost unlikeable dad. Halpern rattles off several nuggets (no pun intended) of his dad’s wisdom and intersperses stories behind some of the comments, including when Halpern and his brothers realized that the Twitter feed went viral without their father knowing it existed. Turns out they needn’t have worried, as long as no damned reporters bothered him.

I listened this on audio while driving back from Cleveland one weekend. The reader did the father in a voice that sounds like a cross between Ralph Kramden and Howard Wolowitz’s mom. Yet Halpern reveals his father to be a much warmer, more loving dad. The infamous temper and tough guy persona shows this when a dad barges into his son’s advanced math class to loudly call out a pompous teacher who can’t be bothered to teach his students the basics. The book ends, however, with a scene that dad insisted be added to the book. It was about his first wife and how their relationship went and how her death affected him. It explains not only why he does some of the outrageous things he does, but why he does what he does for a living.