Nanotechnology goes homicidal in the latest of this author’s ever-more self-derivative thrillers.
All is not well in Silicon Valley. In an intriguing opener, we get a scary little flash forward where 40-year-old Jack is sitting at home listening to his three desperately sick children, hoping they don’t die. Flash back a few days before that and Jack is running to Crate & Barrel, playing the role of house-husband ever since he got laid off as program division head at MediaTronics. Wife Julie is now the primary breadwinner, doing hush-hush Pentagon work with nanotechnology at the Xymos Corporation. Julie has seemed distracted recently, Jack is increasingly sure that she’s having an affair, and his sister is telling him to get a good divorce lawyer on deck. Then the baby, nine-month-old Amanda, comes down sick with a bizarre and terrifying illness that inexplicably disappears as suddenly as it arrived. Things aren’t going too well at Xymos, meantime, so Jack is called in to consult at their research facility out in the middle of the Nevada desert. The project that Julie was working on involved creating swarms of nanotech entities that the military could then use as weapons, surveillance systems, or whatever they wanted. Except the Pentagon was about the pull the plug because Xymos can’t get the bugs worked out. Pretty soon Jack and a few survivors are running about the lab jerry-rigging defenses against some highly evolved and deadly nanotech swarms gone rogue, which Julie just might have let escape on purpose. All the usual Crichton elements are here: pedantic display of research about an emerging technology (Jurassic Park), the emasculated husband (Disclosure), isolated research facility in lockdown (Andromeda Strain), and a motley crew of people trying to survive in a hostile environment (just about all of them). Normally, this would not be a problem, as even Crichton (Timeline, 1999, etc.) on autopilot still makes for a quick and entertaining, if ultimately unsatisfying, read. But this time the product is so by-the-numbers that even die-hard fans may find themselves bored.
Disappointing effort from an author who simply refuses to change an old, tired template.