An investigator uncovers a conspiracy to launch a viral attack in Claburn’s (Reflecting Fires, 2001) sci-fi thriller.
In 2050, Capt. Luis Cisco brings in “data speculator” Sam Crane to investigate the murder of scientist Dr. Xian Mako. Sam takes Mako’s peculiar rose-colored glasses to his friend Jacob to find out how much they might be worth. The case quickly becomes personal when Jacob is found dead and the glasses go missing. Sam looks further into Mako’s purchase of the specs and, because the scientist was poisoned with tetrodotoxin, he pays a visit to a restaurant that serves fugu. It seems, however, that some people don’t want the murder solved: Luis warns Sam off the case, and a mysterious, “sharply dressed man” follows Sam around. Before long, the feds are accusing the investigator of ties to terrorists. Meanwhile, a biological attack that causes blindness prompts another investigation. The novel is a chic fusion of the sci-fi and detective genres. For example, Sam is roughed up by FBI agents who forcibly hook him up to a device to read his mind; he also converses, via helmet mic, with a network agent who has Marilyn Monroe’s voice. Sam is a solid protagonist who’s always ready to employ a snappy line or his fists when the situation calls for it. But he’s also sympathetic: he’s unquestionably upset over Jacob’s death, for example, and regularly sees his comatose 5-year-old daughter, Fiona, who needs constant medical care. The story piles on the mysteries; at one point, for example, the affluent Harris Cayman, whom Sam has never met, bumps Fiona to the top of the list for a drug trial. Claburn also injects a notable satirical theme involving advertising—the network agent endlessly pitches products, depending on what Sam’s doing, and even ominously suggests life insurance. (Sam can only temporarily silence Marilyn by paying.) The narrative is self-contained, ultimately answering every question it raises, but it leaves the door open just a crack for a potential sequel.
An invigorating sci-fi mystery that’s so plugged in it may leave readers’ brains buzzing.