The discovery of genetic information that unlocks the mysteries of life and creation challenges two scientists and imperils their lives.
Readers lacking an advanced, technical background in biology and physics and their attendant vocabularies will find this debut thriller a tough slog. Author Buff has not here surmounted the challenge of making the scientifically complex comprehensible to a general readership. Too often the prose befits a college textbook, as here: "Scientists had known for some time the incredibly precise balance of the physical constants, the relative proportions between gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces.” And too often, thinly developed characters speak as if they were lecturing advanced classes, as here: “Some type of algorithmic processing is definitely needed. The Mandelbrot equation is an example of just one possible type.” And while readers of a scientific bent may decipher the prose, they may well find the plot a predictable and slow-moving succession of stock thriller scenes. A prologue set on the Russian-Ukranian border in 1998, for example, finds a Russian scientist hoping to reach America to work on a project that will "unlock the secrets of creation." The action then moves forward to Boston and the present, where geneticist Stephen Bishop is "about to decode what could be the Rosetta Stone of all life." That sinister groups may seek Bishop’s findings becomes apparent when, in a decently written action scene, his colleague is rubbed out in a car chase. Bishop nevertheless persists, enlisting Dan Lawson, a former cyber intelligence analyst, in his pursuit. Meanwhile, a group known as “The Commission,” which seeks “immortality through the merging of man and machine,” determines to go after Bishop’s discoveries even if they must threaten Bishop’s young daughter, who has leukemia. Threaded through the long pursuits that follow is the conflict between religious and scientific beliefs. The resolution in the final chapter is a sop to both sides.
Back to the lab.