Every now and then, an author comes along who captivates readers with strong writing and captivating storylines…and then ends the story so poorly that readers close the book feeling betrayed and somewhat empty.

That’s how Brian Hodge left me feeling with “Whom the Gods would Destroy.” I finished the book days ago, but I’m still smarting over the end.

“Whom the Gods would Destroy” is the story of Damien, an astronomy grad student who lives in Seattle and hasn’t spoken to his family in more than a decade. One day, his older brother turns up, explaining that he’s discovered something and needs Damien’s expertise. With the promise of a job urging him forward, Damien accompanies his brother on a day trip to Portland, but what he finds there is far more alien than anything he might have expected.

And yes, it is a story about extraterrestrials.

The narrative is beautiful and the characters are wonderfully realistic. Damien may be an off-the-charts intelligent guy, but he’s rife with flaws and foibles. His girlfriend, Ashleigh is an adult dancer who brims with compassion and hope.

The best part is while the book is certainly science fiction; it anchors its tale with a foundation of hard science. “Whom the Gods would Destroy’s” leading concept is based on a sub-theory of panspermia, which basically states that organic matter can travel through space in a dormant state, but become active again if it lands on a hospitable planet.

I have a strong fondness for authors who root their fantasies in reality.

The book ends abruptly. Not the story, just the book. It suddenly abandons readers who are waiting for answers that never come. Instead, the main character gives the readers something like a monologue and disappears into the “About the Author” page.

And that’s the problem: The wonderful story with realistic characters and thought-provoking narrative was authored by someone who simply seemed to give up on finishing the tale completely.

Whom the Gods would Destroy
By Brian Hodge
Published by DarkFuse
ISBN 9781940544137