In Kirk’s debut techno-thriller, scientists struggle to protect a functional quantum computer from people willing to kill for it.
After spending billions of dollars of investors’ money, California pharmaceutical company StruvePharma finally has something to show for it. CEO Peter Struve, however, surprises venture capital firm ZMPC by delivering not a drug but a device capable of generating synthetic crude oil. Later, a gunman gets past security at the StruvePharma campus, accosts the company’s resident genius, Dr. Emily Dura, and demands the device. He also wants the latest prototype of StruvePharma’s QUBE, a quantum computer of which very few people are aware. Head of security John Shea and his team quickly show up, but neither Emily nor QUBE Charlie, the most reliable prototype, survives the ensuing gunfight. Peter feels lost without Emily, the brains behind QUBE, so he turns to the person who may best know her work: her ex-husband, Stanford University professor Jack Dura. As Jack tries to design and build a new prototype, QUBE Delta, StruvePharma’s chief technical officer Aidan O’Keefe has something nefarious planned; readers know he’s in cahoots with powerful people and that he’s not the only mole at the company. Jack and others soon learn QUBE’s connection to a potent, biological virus and an imminent attack. Kirk’s novel smoothly traverses multiple genres: the final act is full-scale action; espionage crops up, courtesy of an industrial spy; and QUBE’s abilities place the book in the realm of science fiction. Readers will find that Jack takes some getting used to, as he’s initially a puerile man who only agrees to join StruvePharma on the condition he be allowed to punch Aidan, who once had an affair with Emily. But Jack does acknowledge his flaws, and his tragic back story gives him depth. Kirk’s intelligent prose is rife with scientific jargon and theories, but he brightens his tale with romance (between Jack and FBI agent Laurel Wynn) and many cinematic references. The latter are best enjoyed if readers already know the movies well; one baddie is said to resemble the “homicidal doll” in the 1988 horror film Child’s Play, for example, but the description is otherwise vague.
A lengthy but straightforward thriller that’s never short on cleverness and zeal.