McCarthy's third novel and first hardcover is set in a near- future Philadelphia dominated by the Gray Party, which is rapidly turning the US into a police state under the pretext of providing law and order. It's all made possible by an invention that can sniff out explosives, weapons, poisons, and drugs; the machine is now installed everywhere, no matter how inappropriate or intrusive the venue. David Sanger, a young nanotechnology researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, is due to present two papers at a conference--but at a reception he's physically assaulted by the sniffer's litigious inventor, Big Otto, and defends himself. Hours later, Big Otto turns up dead, with David's fingerprints all over the murder weapon. Even worse, someone trashes David's lab. Numerous corpses later, Gray police burst into David's apartment and try to kill him. On the run, David suspects that the head political honcho of the Grays is behind all the shenanigans. To clear himself, he's going to have to find out what's really going on, and he's going to have to go after the Grays. He begins by inventing a nanomachine that will disable those symbols of repression, the ubiquitous sniffers. Unconvincingly plotted, peopled, and paced, with a generally sophomoric feel and approach. Even the nanotechnology offers no thrills.