In this clever science-fiction thriller by Richards (Amped, 2012, etc.), a scientist attempts to cure human psychopathy.
Erin Palmer’s family was murdered by a psychopath when she was a child, and as a scientist, she commits herself to finding a cure that will eliminate that personality defect from the human race. Approaching a solution, she learns she is being observed by aliens who have traveled from light years away—so her work has galactic, even universal significance. There are 17 other civilizations in our neck of the Milky Way, and they are all stagnant and meeker than the human race. So, in the long run, perhaps Earth’s psychopaths have their place as drivers of progress. Meanwhile, the aliens among us want to learn what Erin knows. The complicated plot thread is fun to follow through its many twists and turns. The story is well-written and fast-paced, with main characters who are easy to root for—they are, after all, protecting countless future generations of humanity. But at its core, this is standard thriller fare: beautiful young woman faces seemingly insurmountable odds but remains undaunted. The villain is about to commit murder but gives a long explanatory speech instead. Any cynical reader will want to yell, Pull the trigger, already! Although Erin’s motives are deeply personal, the consequences of her actions will reverberate through the rest of time and space. What if psychopathy is eliminated from the human race? Will we turn into a planet of sheep like the 17 other stagnant worlds? If so, ours will be a long-term slide, perhaps lasting thousands of years into the future. To care as deeply as Erin cares takes true empathy.
Raises interesting questions about the nature of humanity. Although the plot depends on wormholes and faster-than-light space travel, readers won’t have to be science-fiction fans to enjoy it.