A Bill Gates–like multibillionaire is assassinated at a press conference that’s hyped as the announcement of a world-shattering breakthrough.
Front-row witness to Mitchell Swain’s murder is Jennifer Rayne, a stylish reporter on new developments in technology whose first reaction is to set off in search of the assassin. The trail leads to John Marrek, a reclusive inventor funded by Swain. Right on Rayne’s heels is a heavily armed squad of killers, whom Marrek defeats with a weapon based on nanotechnology: microscopic self-replicating machines that disassemble the attackers on the molecular level. Disregarding his warning to stay away from him, Rayne accompanies Marrek as he makes his escape, sure that she’s on the trail of the story of her lifetime. Meanwhile, we learn that the assassin is an undercover government agent bent on seizing the secret of this nanotechnology for its potential as weaponry. At first distrustful of Marrek, Rayne soon learns that he’s determined to keep his discoveries out of government’s hands, which will use them only to preserve the powers that be. Several long dialogues indicate the potential of nanotech to revolutionize society by providing the ability to manufacture anything at all at minimum cost, by ending dependence on fossil fuel and reversing damage to the environment, even by conferring effective immortality on its users. The bad guys, eager to preserve the status quo, co-opt the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They pursue Marrek with the most powerful weapons in the US military's arsenal. (The book ends with two brief, apparently heartfelt factual afterwords on nanotech’s potential and dangers.)
Never mind the cardboard characters, preachy dialogue, and over-the-top plot: Hollywood screenwriter Marlow’s debut is a real page-turner.