My Rating: 2.5 / 5.0
Amazon Rating: 4.00 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.59 / 5.00
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book free from the author via a Librarything Member Giveaway, in return for an honest review.
David Desh used to be in Special Forces, but left after his team died in Iran and he was burned out mentally and emotionally. He is now a security expert, so he is surprised when his old commanding officer calls him to offer him a job. David needs to find Kira Miller, a brilliant genetic engineer who is believed to be behind a terrifying biological agent that could destroy most of western civilization. She has bioengineered a form of the Ebola virus that can be fed to the populous and then triggered at a latter date, when the infected person eats pig products. This weapon is being developed for Al Qaida and she must be found and stopped before she can pass it to her employers. She has also developed a method for increasing the efficiency of brain usage that turns into a savant for short periods of time. Unfortunately, the increased intelligence brings with it a ruthlessness that borders on megalomania and can be incredibly dangerous.
I have a scientific background and I like a good Thriller, so I was pleased to receive my free copy of this book. I thought the premise of an intelligence-enhancing serum sounded fascinating and gave a lot of scope for exploring this next step in man’s evolution and we certainly do see that addressed in the book when the enhanced characters become unfeeling and dismissive of other humans. However, this exploration consisted of either long discussions or internal monologues that were very drawn out and therefore counterproductive as it became difficult to maintain interest in them whilst trying to find out what happened next. The author spent far too much time telling us about the effects of the serum rather than showing it to us, which would have been much more interesting.
The plot itself was confused with lots of unnecessary action and ‘twists’ that were so obvious as to be laughable. Rather than keeping us guessing about Kira and her allegiance, we are very quickly shown that she is actually an innocent who is being set up by an unknown evil. This was disappointing because it meant that all the further hints at her being a bad guy were pointless and just made me feel like the author did not really know how to handle his plot. There were also far too many improbable escapes and happy coincidences for my liking and a bad guy who seemed to be omniscient.
Speaking of whom, the villain of the piece is so two dimensional that I half expected him to pull out a white Persian cat and sneer, “No Mr Desh, I expect you to die!” followed by insane cackling. Indeed all the characters are pretty dull, although the aged Special Forces CO was interesting enough, but the most rounded character was the hairy computer geek. He had some great lines and showed genuine change through the book, and his scene as a genius was hilarious. However, our hero was far too standard and much too perfect, whilst our genius heroine was simply unbelievable. I did not really care about their continued survival, and that is never a good thing to say about the main characters.
The writing was generally dull and cluttered with far too much exposition rather than showing us who the characters are and what they are thinking and doing. The dialogue was used mostly for information dumping rather than character development, which made it uninteresting and hard to read. I am never happy when people sit down in the middle of a stressful situation to detail their history and explain why they think as they do: it just does not seem real to me and so it pulls me out of the story.
The scientific basis of the premise seemed very unlikely to my mind: I am not overly familiar with genetic engineering but I am a biology graduate and some of the ideas used seemed unworkable to me. I see that Mr Richards has training in microbiology and molecular biology, so I understand where he gets his ideas from, I just wish he had kept in mind that whole humans do not behave in the same way as a few cells in a test tube. However, my biggest complaint about the science is that there was just so much unnecessary explanation that it got really, really boring. A good editor would have jettisoned the majority of it and retained just a simple outline that would have given more time for the rest of the story. This is supposed to be a thriller after all, not a scientific thesis.
This was an OK thriller, but the premise promised so much more. The plot has more twists than seems sensible and, unfortunately, most of them are so obvious that they are very predictable. The characterization was weak, with the most interesting character being one of the supporting cast. The dialogue was uninteresting and there was far too much exposition. The science was not very well thought through and explained to the point of utter boredom. The ending was preposterous and I have no intention of moving on to the second book in the series.