SEA CHANGE by James Powlik

SEA CHANGE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Oceanographer Powlik debuts with a bio-technothriller so awash in technology that some likable characters barely get their heads above water. Beware the dreaded pfiesteria, it’s a killer. It has “up to 24 distinct life stages and produces at least two toxins that act offensively”—which is to say murderously—and it’s on the loose in the Pacific. Or perhaps that’s an inexact phrase for something that adheres like jelly, looks like a green slick eight square miles wide, and is moving inexorably on a line that threatens to wipe out the populations of Seattle or Vancouver or both. A natural disaster? Hardly. Pfiesteria is the result of an experiment gone wrong: one of those occasional misadventures perpetrated by a military-industrial complex panicky and anxious about parity in bio-chemical warfare. The thin line of defense against the giant, waterborne bug is composed of crack oceanographer Brock Garner and his small but dedicated band of scientists. Pitted against them—with a secret agenda as self-serving as it is nefarious—is the conniving archcapitalist Bob Nolan, who never saw the buck he wouldn’t stoop to stuff in his coffers. There’s the internecine warfare between the scientists; a pleasant, understated love story between Garner and a beautiful lady doc (a romance that could have used more room to bloom), and some horrifically vivid descriptions of pfiesteria-caused deaths. Finally, Nolan gets his just deserts, Garner gets the girl, and the noxious peril is coped with. Though the author hints at more undersea menace in the future, greenish pfiesteria with pinkish wisteria is allowed to become no more than quiet fare for a couplet. Blended cleverly, science and suspense are of course compatible. Next time out, the talented Powlik may well get the mix just right. ($250,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1999
ISBN: 0-385-33399-4
Page count: 353pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999




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