A slimy D.C. lobbyist—is there any other kind?—sets off a war between supercolliding physicists and supercredulous evangelical Christians in an unusually alarming and thoughtful thriller.
Preston (Tyrannosaur Canyon, 2005, etc.), who often teams with Lincoln Child, presses every middle-class panic button he can reach in this lightning-fast tale of science pushing toward the edge and religion pushing back in the Arizona desert, where a $40 billion atom smasher seems to be talking as if it is God. The giant experimental apparatus fills miles of abandoned coal mine tunnels deep under Indian territory, sucking up enough electricity to power an entire time zone and enough public funds to attract serious attention from all kinds of mischief makers. There is a problem. The smasher has yet to do its ultimate deed. Every time the team of deeply dedicated scientists manning the gizmo push for maximum power, a smartass message pops up on the screen, possibly from the Deity. Meanwhile, in Washington, a K Street fixer dropped by his Arizona Indian clients encourages a revolting televangelist to spread the message that the scientists are spending public money on anti-Christian tasks. Recovering CIA agent Wyman Ford is dropped into Indian territory to get a read on the physicists and, while he’s at it, to smooth things over with the Indians. As Ford burrows into scientific secrets, a scrawny and ultimately murderous missionary, who has had little success converting the Indians, hooks up with the televangelist and takes on a new mission: to smash the atom smashers and end the conversation they appear to be having with someone who is either a very clever hacker or the Originator of the Universe. Ford and the Indians are alone in their skepticism about the need for an apocalypse.
Clever and terrifying.