About the book, Rip the Sky
- Genre: Speculative Fiction / Fantasy / Science Fiction
- Publisher: Bluestreak Publishing
- Page Count: 317 pages
- Publication Date: August 21, 2023
- Scroll down for a giveaway!
After a shocking courtroom tragedy, a disturbed Vietnam veteran and the vindictive judge who sent him to prison become an unlikely pair of time travelers in a chaotic multiverse. The fallen angel who rescues them wants to guide them to a radiant new life. But first they must return to the scene of a ghastly crime.
Billy Worster was a naïve teenager ill-prepared for the gruesome realities of war. The sole survivor of a deadly massacre in a Vietnamese jungle, he avoided certain death only because he ran away when the shooting started. Riddled with guilt, he comes home to a dusty Texas farm with post-traumatic stress disorder and the crazy notion that he can fly in and out of parallel worlds.
As Billy struggles with addiction and questions his sanity, he is arrested on a drug charge and ends up in the courtroom of Judge Madeline Johnston, a bitter old judge tormented by a dark secret surrounding her father’s death. She callously tosses Billy into prison, but when a greedy executor files a lawsuit to steal his inherited land, Billy is hauled back to her courtroom in chains, where a stunning twist of fate launches them into the sky on an odyssey of discovery and healing.
Spanning forty years from the jungles of Vietnam through infinite, parallel worlds, Rip the Sky examines how the power of forgiveness can lead us toward a better life, no matter how many worlds we may live in.
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About the author, Mark Packard
Mark Packard spent the last 38 years as a trial attorney and is now retired from the courtroom and working as a mediator. In a life before lawyering he was a journalist and regrets waiting far too long before returning to his roots to write his first novel, Rip the Sky. Though he knows he should have jumped off the merry-go-round years ago, he hopes to hang around long enough to craft a few more tales.
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In many ways, Mark Packard’s debut novel Rip the Sky is a war story. Actually, it’s a war story on many levels. There’s the literal war that the main character, Billy Worster, fights in Viet Nam. There’s the mental war between the PTSD he suffers as a result of his experiences in the jungle. There’s the chemical war Billy fights against the drugs and alcohol that make his pain recede. And there’s the metaphysical one, fought not just by Billy, but also by the Judge whose fate is tied to his: Madeline Johnston, the battle for forgiveness of self and others, the fight for a clear conscious and an easy mind.
Author Mark Packard tells all of these war stories elegantly. His descriptions of both the physical – the jungle, the farm where a woman named Rachel gives Billy a literal lifeline, the unforgiving courtroom where Madeline presides – and the metaphysical – the “patch of Eden” that both characters long for – are visceral, cinematic and incredibly specific. His use of language – Billy is not a particularly bright person on the surface – or at least, not academically – while Madeleine is analytical, hiding behind the law as much as interpreting it- is deft. Each word feels carefully crafted, but the overall story never seems contrived. The events that are depicted are often grim, but everything is grounded so well in emotional truth that the story is compelling. I read this book straight through in one evening (then skimmed it a bit later so it would be fresh for this review. I was rooting for Billy all the way through, even when he made poor choices. By the end, I was willing Madeleine to make the right choices, too.
While this novel isn’t obvious science fiction, there are elements of fantasy flowing through it, and those elements are organic, coming mainly from the capacity of the human mind to give us sanctuary from our own realities when we are at our lowest points. Of course, there’s also a fallen angel, so not all the fantasy is imagined. (Or is it? Aren’t the places we create in our minds as real as the spaces we inhabit?) The term “speculative fiction” fades in and out of common use, but it’s the most applicable one for this unique novel.
Coming in at a meaty 317 pages, Rip the Sky immerses the reader in Packard’s prose and his gripping, well-paced storytelling. This novel is gritty in places. There is drug use, alcohol abuse, and violence in these pages. But the story is brilliant both as a piece of literature, and as an object lesson in two things: the resilience of the human spirit, and the need to better care for our military veterans.
Goes well with: Prime rib and pinot noir.
Signed hard copy of Rip the Sky + $50 Amazon gift card
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 10/13/23)
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