A Chinese plot to steal an American company’s proprietary knowledge to make genetically modified fish spawns passion, spying, and murder among those caught in its currents.
In this novel, the scarred Chinese Gen. Zhou Xiaoping is revered by many in his home country, with his status placing him largely above most laws. But his desire to pursue Western-developed technologies has been hindered by skeptical bureaucrats. Intent on claiming Omniprotein, Inc.’s cutting-edge “Frankenfish” research, which boasts faster growing, heartier specimens and superior water filtration abilities, the general reaches out to an organization called The Long Beach group. This outfit enlists a sociopathic scientist and thief to relieve the U.S. company of its secrets and eliminate any witnesses. In the madman’s cross hairs are numerous Omniprotein employees as well as students at Nebraska State University (which has connections to the firm’s fish farm), all of them navigating attempts on their lives and fraught sexual liaisons. Meanwhile, John Liu, an Omniprotein founder, works tirelessly to help keep the theft and violence from harming the company abroad so that he can travel to China, where his long-estranged ex-wife lives. Powers (OrcaSpeak, 2013) meticulously details the academic and corporate culture, along with the impact biotechnology has on world hunger and environmental issues. But the characters often get enmeshed in the book’s tendency to emphasize teaching over storytelling, saddling the players with a lot of exposition and a very clinical manner of speaking. Eleanor Locke, the president of Omniprotein, splits her time between dealing with her company under siege and repairing her marriage after her husband’s recent surgery. But she spends far more energy cerebrally dissecting the loss of privacy in the age of social media. Gabriel Jordan, a teacher’s aide, and Selena Joyce Campbell, a biologist still recovering from being sexually assaulted, interact awkwardly even by the “charming but bungling STEM student” stereotype. In one of the tale’s clumsier exchanges, Gabriel, his mother, and Selena talk about AIDS testing. Despite interpersonal fumbling, spy games built around real-world emerging technologies still manage to sustain a protracted story’s intrigue.
Readers looking to bone up on the subject of Frankenfish with some homicide and espionage as the hushpuppies should find a lot to feast on here.