Open Distance by Michael Vorhis
Bold from the first page; a thriller in every sense.
A WORLD OF MIND-NUMBING RISK …a top competitor with a brilliant, proud, tumultuous past…a sensational but inexperienced new rival…these elements can spell glory, or they can ignite into a malice so consuming it destroys all lives in its path.
For international competition circuit legend Nolan Farragut, courage and intelligence are givens…but are they enough? The struggle for supremacy requires unclouded judgment, and human perception. Stakes are high; and risk of fatality is the least of it. Through a spellbinding narrative memoir delivered in the very shadow of death, and far beyond all the deeds of creative daring, resentment and calamity loom as a breaking storm over his unique legacy. Love may be blind, but nothing is as blind as unrequited hate.
Introducing a unique extreme sport concept rooted soundly in modern soaring aviation and deep ocean exploration technology, OPEN DISTANCE explores a sphere of dire peril as it navigates the harrowing depths of love, loss, meaning…and hope.
Be forewarned: There is much at stake. You will sit bolt upright; you will hold your breath; you will be moved to tears.
About Michael Vorhis:
Blending a rigorous classical education with countryside origins, Michael Vorhis has uniquely fused the influences of extensive global travel, exhilarating avocations, a romantic predilection and an innate story-telling talent into three decades of inspired fiction.
Born to devoted parents on a small farm in a midwestern American valley, he absorbed the dual influences of traditional large-family values and the intoxicating natural world. Tending fields and ponies, playing baseball and fishing little creeks on idyllic summer days, striving intellectually to the tune of ambitious Jesuit academic rigors through the school months, he read thrilling fiction and dreamed ever of the great wide untamed world, of striding tall across wind-swept mountain ranges and plying the high seas in search of whatever searching might relinquish.
After university and a brief immersion in the Coast Guard, Vorhis settled into a technical career while learning to excel in sport ranging from volleyball and baseball to skiing, high alpine climbing, river kayaking, the martial arts, hang gliding (by which he earned a gold medal in a World Championship meet)…and he also pursued the cultivation of close friends and the serenity of remote terrain trekking and fly fishing. Deliciously silky breezes, rhythmically glowing campfire embers and crystalline streams were all good for the soul. He traveled some of the furthest reaches of the planet to feed the discovery thirst. A variety of curious shorter works came out of these wonderful years.
In his late forties the settling gene finally kicked in. Vorhis married and is now devoted to his wife and child, passing on his love of life to his daughter (and to others via coaching), pursuing erstwhile passions as time permits…and of course writing. It’s no wonder that the dedication he penned for a recent novel reads, “…I will never forget the brothers I chose, down through the years–the kindred spirits with whom I explored alien realms, taunted unnamed perils, and tasted unspeakable glories, for they learned alongside me that Life belongs to those who can’t get enough of it.”
It has been, overall, a charmed run.
In ARCHANGEL he has crafted a debut novel of exceptional power–a deft marriage of suspense, complexity and compelling beauty through which honor, malevolence, and forbidden love collide. ARCHANGEL is a taut, thrilling, profoundly memorable experience–a masterful work.
In OPEN DISTANCE Vorhis delivers a gritty submersion into a world of off-the-chart risk and consuming emotion. Amplifying popular “extreme pursuit” obsessions to mind-numbing levels, adventure thriller OPEN DISTANCE also prowls a far deeper realm, exploring the jagged shards and resilient tenacity of human sentiment. Readers hail the story’s unique technological concept and acclaim the riveting tension, complex passion, and multi-dimensional vividness for which Michael Vorhis has become known.
From the Author:
This novel began as a novella/short fiction/short story, published 1997, the abridged length of which didn’t begin to do the deeper concept justice. It was the realization that personal flight mesmerized humanity that convinced me this concept was a winner for a mainstream audience. I’d had a lot of direct experience with aviation, soaring flight, scuba, sailing, and the deep sea, of course, and I also saw how the simultaneous pursuit of action adventure and notoriety could become addictive–even destructive to judgment, relationships and life. Obsessions–inner ghosts, inner demons, inner twilight, the inner war–are like that.
They say that love is blind, but hate is equally so, and perhaps more. As the protagonist shared his memoirs with me and I dutifully recorded them for you, at some point I saw that the underlying human theme was this: “Nothing is as blind as unrequited hate.” That became the tag line on the paperback edition. Far from being a focus on the negative, though, it was a recognition of what the protagonist himself comes to see, as he goes through the catharctic process of remembering, relating, and reliving the tumultuous tale of his life.
Like all great titles, the phrase “OPEN DISTANCE” is relevant on multiple levels, although I’ll let the story lay them out at the pace it wants. I do hope folks avoid “summarizing” the technology and events of this tale in their reviews; there are far better ways for a paperback reader or ebook reader to make book recommendations or prove he or she has read the volume–ways that make use of a little more vagueness, a little more creativity. An author goes to quite a lot of trouble to weave details in at the right time, with the right cadence; it’s the author’s place alone to decide whether giving away a detail matters or not. Providing Clif-Notes-like summaries only demonstrates disrespect of other readers. This novel in particular needs to present its concept in stages. And a major theme is “distance.”
As one notable reviewer of best-seller contemporary fiction deftly put it, this novel works on a surface level, as a first-rate, epic, edge-of-the-seat action thriller. It goes toe-to-toe with any novel out there, and will glue you to your chair. But there’s a far deeper level at which it works too, that being the theme of human introspection and awakening, and the fact that at some level it is a powerful meditation on the value of Life and Love. Without this emotional core, any piece of so-called classic literature, any literary fiction art, is just light diversion.
The writing took a total of three years (far shorter than my previous novel, ARCHANGEL–a taut mystery and suspense/ romantic suspense work which had consumed more than a decade), and turned out exactly as I’d hoped (after all, even the author never quite knows, until it’s a complete, living, breathing thing). For awhile I feared that OPEN DISTANCE would be far too tense a suspense thriller and that readers (especially psychological thriller, historical fiction and classics readers, and readers of romance, and even hard core scifi or crime drama/crime fiction, sports strategy or military history/military science fiction fans) would be worn out emotionally long before they reached the apex and conclusion. But the public quickly put those fears to rest, hungrily consuming the tale, many saying they were unable to put it down. It deals with emotions and relationships with which we all can relate, interweaves bits of humor (the tiny moments of comedy that punctuate real lives), and drama, happiness, calamity and horror, magic, friendship, family relationships, depression, healing, and love. Despite the outward focus on revenge and survival, it is a love story in at least two inspirational ways, at its very heart.
I suppose the story felt draining to me because so much of the main character comes from traits of people I know (and from aspects of myself), and when circumstance called upon that flawed character to show a level of stoic leadership, or when dire things went down, they felt like they were happening to me. So in an effort to sound motivational I simply tell people, “Strap into the armchair when it gets cookin’!”
A handful of early pages have some technical content, but there’s no avoiding it, as those concepts have to be established for the tension of the story to gel. It isn’t overmuch, and it’s laid out in engaging layman’s fashion, not dry like reference material, so it’s enjoyable to take in. If you yearn to get to the emotional part, the heartbreak, the risk to health, risk of death, risk of love lost…just go boldly forward; it won’t take long, and it’s all there in spades. If you love mind-numbing suspense, tension, flying, diving, extreme sports,competition, adventure and dire peril, well, ditto.
Like my first novel ARCHANGEL, the richness of the prose attempts to be a kind of experiential “verbal photography” for the reader, and by all feedback succeeds. You will be there, in the story, guaranteed. The philosophy of the narrator changes as he evolves, as his psychology reacts to his extreme situation, as his series of decisions string together in a bid for success, and then for pride, and then for life. Parts of this story will bring out beads of perspiration. And parts of it will make you cry. In the final proof-reading, two parts in particular made me cry, and I already knew they were coming! But I had come to care for the characters, you see.
I don’t believe any literature or movie, EVER, has developed or even hinted at the basic concept on which this story is based. It’s quite unique…it has a bit of a “sci-fi” element in that sense. But mostly it’s a very human drama, and amid the relentless poetry of circumstance, emotions rule the day, as you will discover.
I believe you’ll enjoy it immensely; I believe you’ll experience what you’ll never get anywhere else.