ILL WIND

A big, near-future disaster novel straddling the border between science fiction and technothriller, likely to appeal to fans of both. Anderson and Beason (coauthors of Assemblers of Infinity, 1993) begin with a huge oil spill in San Francisco Bay. The oil company decides to deploy an octane-eating bacteria, crossbred from two naturally occurring species, but the cure turns out to be worse than the disease: While scientists who bred the new bug swear it cannot spread beyond the spill, it contaminates gasoline in the tanks of cars crossing Golden Gate Bridge during the spraying. As each of the cars gasses up, the bacteria spreads to the gas in the service station tank. Worse, the bug soon develops an appetite for petroleum byproducts, in particular plastic and other synthetics. As the elaborate web of modern technology begins to disintegrate, the characters, a varied cast from all walks of life, are thrown back on their own resources for survival. A venial Louisiana congressman suddenly inherits the presidency; an insurance agent quits her job and takes to the wilderness; ghetto families from Oakland join forces with a hippie commune near Altamont; and a scientist developing a solar power facility in the New Mexico desert becomes the hope for technology's revival. Meanwhile, civilization degenerates into anarchy and cannibalism, the government attempts to retain control by increasingly harsh measures, and a good many protagonists die—usually nastily. In the end, there is hope, as the good guys manage to hang on in spite of all the forces ranked against them. Style and characterization are often clunky, but the fast- moving story pushes all the right emotional buttons for mass success: It's almost un-put-downable.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-85760-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

THE CAMEL CLUB

A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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