SPIRAL by Paul McEuen

Book Quote:

“The era of tanks and fighter jets battling on land and sky was drawing to a close. The wars of the future would be fought on small battlefields by tiny weapons striking from a thousand directions at once. The fight would take place inside computer networks, inside human bodies. Cyber-warfare. Swarms of semi-autonomous robots…. Biological weapons.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (MAY 30, 2011)

Paul McEuen, a professor of physics at Cornell, makes good use of his scientific knowledge in Spiral, a provocative and frightening techno-thriller. The story opens in 1946, with biologist Liam Connor witnessing a horrifying scene of destruction from the deck of the USS North Dakota. Liam is a prodigy whose expertise includes “saprobic fungi, the feeders on the dead.” At twenty-two, he already has an impressive résumé, having spent four years at Porton Down, “the center of British chemical and germ weapons research.” Connor is dismayed to learn that the Japanese have a top-secret biological weapon derived from a species of fungus. If unleashed, this mycotoxin could cause widespread devastation. Although World War II is over, some Japanese soldiers cannot live with defeat; they are determined to strike back.

Sixty-four years pass. Liam is eighty-six, still works hard, and has a delightfully puckish sense of humor. He is a legendary biologist who runs a laboratory in Cornell University, where he taught for half a century. Connor is a Nobel Laureate, “a pure genius” who has spent his life studying fungal taxonomy, genetics, and biotechnology. In addition, he dotes on his granddaughter, Maggie, also a gifted scientist, and his nine-year-old great-grandson son, Dylan. Suddenly, Liam is attacked by a vicious and merciless predator. Why would someone want to destroy this sweet and gentle man? The answer lies in a long-ago event that occurred on the USS North Dakota in the Pacific Ocean.

Spiral is fast-paced and engrossing novel. It is greatly enhanced by technical details concerning robotics, nanotechnology, and microbiology. McEuen conveys a potent and timely message about the misguided decisions made by heads of state who crave military and political supremacy. The characters are generally well-drawn and include a possible love interest for Maggie–physicist Jake Sterling, a veteran of the Gulf War and a colleague of Liam’s. Jake and Maggie are heirs to Liam’s distinguished legacy, but they face a menacing villain—eighty-five year old World War II veteran and billionaire Hitoshi Kitano. For him, Japan’s surrender was the ultimate humiliation, and he has vowed to bring America to her knees. Making matters even worse is Lawrence Dunne, the deputy national security advisor to the President of the United States. He is an intemperate foreign policy hawk who has a catastrophic inability to foresee the consequences of his actions.

McEuen chills us with scenes of excruciating torture and grisly deaths, and there are a number of violent confrontations between our heroes and a sadistic female killer. In 1969, Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain presented a terrifying scenario about lethal microbes from outer space that land on earth. Paul McEuen, in his electrifying debut, describes a different threat—this time from individuals so warped by hatred that they would use virulent weapons of bioterrorism to annihilate millions of human beings. Let us hope that this doomsday scenario remains merely a product of the author’s imagination.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 41 readers
PUBLISHER: The Dial Press (March 22, 2011)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

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May 30, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, NE & New York, Speculative (Beyond Reality), Thriller/Spy/Caper

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