Moving away from his President’s Vampire series, Farnsworth (Red, White, and Blood, 2012, etc.) offers a fantastical witch’s brew of Spanish conquistadors, biotechnology, and hubris.
Legend says Ponce de León sought the Fountain of Youth in Florida. According to Farnsworth, Simón de Oliveras y Seixas found it there in 1527. Simón, a Spanish soldier, is now known as Simon Oliver III, CEO of Conquest Biotech. Max, Francisco, Pedro, Sebastian, and Aznar, his conquistador Council of the Immortals, share the wealth, using the elixir and "succeeding themselves as father to son for generations." Simon has problems, though, beginning with the revenge-obsessed Shako, daughter of the Uzita Water Clan's chief, who rescued him back in the 16th century before he betrayed her and stole the fountain’s secret. Worse, Simon’s secreted supply of the fountain water is dwindling, and the source cannot be found. With Conquest marketing a cutting-edge anti-aging drug, ReGenesys, Simon hires double-Ph.D. genius David Robinton to re-engineer the magic Florida spring water. Farnsworth’s science is easy reading as David rejiggers DNA so that "all new cells would be rebuilt without junk or cancer or waste." The premise requires buy-in: Simon visualizes his power "to save this miserable, fallen world from itself," but the world 500 years ago mirrors the present. Shifting settings across those five centuries, Farnsworth sometimes stops for social commentary, most effectively when Andrew Jackson engineers mass killings of Native Americans in Florida or when Shako offers a synopsis on female oppression. However, there’s more action than philosophy or science, and other than David’s evolution out of naiveté, only Shako comprehends the vagaries of "souls rotting long before their bodies died." With cinematic pacing and colorful action scenes, Farnsworth blends a unique premise into fun summer reading.
Michael Crichton’s gone, but Farnsworth entertainingly explores the border where science fantasy meets reality.