In this riveting debut thriller by one of the leading researchers in nanoscience, the race is on to stop the devastating proliferation of the ultimate bioweapon.
When Nobel laureate Liam Connor is found dead at the bottom of one of Ithaca, New York’s famous gorges, his research collaborator, Cornell professor of nanoscience Jake Sterling, refuses to believe it was suicide. Why would one of the world’s most eminent biologists, a 86-year old man in good health who survived some of the darkest days of the Second World War, have chosen to throw himself off a bridge? And who was the mysterious woman caught on camera at the scene? Soon it becomes clear that a cache of supersophisticated nanorobots—each the size of a spider—has disappeared from the dead man’s laboratory.
Stunned by grief, Jake, Liam’s granddaughter, Maggie, and Maggie’s nine-year-old son, Dylan, try to put the pieces together. They uncover ingeniously coded messages Liam left behind pointing toward a devastating secret he gleaned off the shores of war-ravaged Japan and carried for more than 60 years.
What begins as a quest for answers soon leads to a horrifying series of revelations at the crossroads of biological warfare and nanoscience. At this dangerous intersection, a skilled and sadistic assassin, an infamous Japanese war criminal, and a ruthless U.S. government official are all players in a harrowing game of power, treachery, and intrigue—a game whose winner will hold the world’s fate literally in the palm of his hand.
The opening of Paul McEuen's freshman novel Spiral throws you a bit. It hits you hard with guns blazing, WWII soldiers fighting for their lives, explosions, and lots of blood and twitching body parts flying around. He reminds you right away just how high the stakes are in this tale of biological warfare and international intrigue. Yet as soon as the action returns to the present day, Spiral proves to be a whole different kind of story. Dr. Liam Conner, who witnessed the original WWII drama, has become a kindly old, respected professor of nanscience and a doting great-grandfather. His brilliant granddaughter is a slow track mom who puts her family relationships above all else. For all its grand apocalyptic themes, this is a surprisingly intimate narrative full of beautifully written characters and personal interactions tied together around our main protagonist Jake Sterling. It's the literary equivalent of a good date movie. Sure it’s got gene splicing, slimy killer fungus, high-stakes chases, and some really cool killer nanobots; however, it also ties all of this around a group of well-written characters you really become invested in.
Rob Shapiro's narration is smooth, polished, and nicely balanced. His deep voice carries the suspense well, especially in the parts where a grisly death could await around every corner. Yet he shows a lot of sensitivity portraying the various relationships as well. He reminds you that a really good narrator tends to blend seamlessly into the background in the service of the story telling. It's not so much the screams and explosions that get to you here; it’s the whisper in your ear that raises the hair on the back of your neck.
"Fungus Amungus" is a rallying cry that carries throughout the story, and also underlies the key threat. How do you escape something so deadly, so pervasive, as a weaponized fungus spore? It can be in every nook and cranny, every breath we take. It's also the ultimate mindless killer, so it's not really the fungus here that's the monster. It's the people who would mastermind its deadly potential. Cleo Creech
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Can't wait for his next!
Great science fiction (not fantasy)