DECIPHER by Stel Pavlou
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Spellbinding mainstream science-fiction spectacular.

The London-based Pavlou’s polymath debut wears five years of research in several disciplines. It turns on sunspots and a casting off of the sun’s coronal shield every 12,000 years, which causes vast devastation here. In 2012, new gravitational centers are found under Antarctica, the Arctic, the Amazon, Cairo, and Wupu, in China, pointing to an electromagnetic buildup that may combine with gravity waves hurtling from the sun—or defend us from them. Discovered at the same time is C60, a manmade form of carbon fabulously harder than diamond. American oil riggers for Rola Corp. in Antarctica have broken through an undersea wall that clearly belongs to a sunken city, one corresponding to Atlantis. Crystallized chunks of C60 come up the pipe and bear pre-cuneiform lettering: language older than the oldest known Sumerian cuneiform, almost certainly from a lost civilization. But how could there be a whole wall of C60 when the entire amount of C60 made by man amounts to a very expensive pinhead? Lost civilizations other than Atlantis, including the Zoroastrian and Aztec, loom large in Pavlou. After discoveries in Wupu, the Chinese are as interested in C60 as the Americans are, and war hovers over the massive undersea store in Antarctica. We follow Rola Corp. teams of scientists at three of the gravity spots and visit the three-mile-long CERN atom smasher outside Geneva, where a piece of the crystal is bombarded and analyzed. Meanwhile, Dr. Richard Scott, a linguist/cultural anthropologist/epigraphist who spends years deciphering ancient inscriptions, is brought in to decipher the Atlantis lettering, and we are treated to long discourses on world languages. Also on hand is Dr. Jon Hackett, a specialist in complexity theory, who gives us complexity workouts. The female leads: Scott’s 19-year-old assistant, November Dryden, and tough-talking geologist Sarah Kelsey, who discovers immense tunnels and other marvels under the Sphinx and Great Pyramid.

Small print, big picture. Pavlou’s masterpiece doesn’t let us off easy.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-312-28075-0
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2002


Sci-FiEMBASSYTOWN by China Miéville
by China Miéville