Category Archives: Terrorists

Review: Carriers

Carriers
Carriers by Patrick Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good solid medical thriller, taking place mostly in Sumatra’s jungles, it is the search for a deadly virus source. Several case have cropped up around the world, and it’s origin is being traced back to Sumatra, and a jungle camp of a ethnobotanist who studies plants for their rare medical qualities. The team is complicated by the appearance of Holly Becker, a young woman who’s two girls were visiting their father (her ex) for the summer in order to see what he does first hand. She is met with resistance, since the disease is spreading, and the towns are becoming overrun, and the police and military are wrangling over turf wars, and now nobody can get in or out. And thus begins a harrowing and exciting journey by several parties into the dark jungles, with a virus that has an almost perfect kill rate. And no knowledge of how it spreads – contact, bodily fluids, air, etc. What the answer is, no one will guess, and that is what makes a good thriller. I would wish for a little more flesh on the characters, but the disease is the star, and that’s the way it should be. Leading the U.S. contingent is LT. Col. Carmen Travis, working for USAMRIID, who leaves her own children behind, to trace this deadly outbreak. Nice edge of your bed reading, with some nice little gruesome details thrown in for good measure, and plenty of red herrings.

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Review: Directive 51

Directive 51
Directive 51 by John Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a densely packed techno thriller. It is the first book in a trilogy, so not all questions are answered. It reminds me in many ways of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 40 Days of Rain. It is densely populated with a large cast of characters, from the people who helped bring about this end of civilization, called the Daybreakers, to the politicians and government types that make up the DC world. Most of the book is focused on the government – how it reacts, what department’s do, succession questions, policies, and procedures. I found it one of the most fascinating books I have read since the Jump 225 trilogy a number of years ago.

I felt, unlike some, that his cast of characters, although none perfect, showed humanity, and it was his attention to minute detail that brought the book alive for me – like the TV reporter following the Republican challenger around the campaign tour in the last week of the election just as Daybreak hits. He is hired by an elderly lady, who has a big rambling old house, and a friend with a printing press, for food and lodging, and to become the National Affairs editor of the new paper newspaper that she is starting up (the novel takes place an unidentified time in the near future -about 15-20 years), and he thinks about the job, wonders if he can find a fedora and maybe one with a hatband to stick a press card in it. A humorous aside, one of many, that shows the characters in a few brush strokes (although we knew him earlier as a brilliant TV journalist/cameraman), – the mention of the hat and press card shows that he understands the long history of journalism and the proud nature of it, and that the news must go on. I found many such small details to bring the book alive. Even throw-away characters had character. And some showed up again when you didn’t expect them to.

It is the story of a meme, one that seems to have no head – no person directing it’s activities, although maybe a large group, but it is self-replicating, found through systemic semiotic analysis that looks at patterns that emerge from nowhere, and unlike fads, seems to have a purpose, to grow, and subsume other splinter groups/ideas into it’s message. It is very hard to understand at times – the whole meme structure of it is explained in non-layman’s terms and again for us newbies, but it is exciting. I read until 3am, and then I still didn’t want to quit. It is somewhat dry at times, like KSR’s trilogy, but it also scary, plausible to me, and has great consequences for our lives, our political systems, and humanity itself. Having watched internet memes come along and grow in ever increasing numbers, I see how this book took that idea, fresh two years ago, and created this book from it. Two years ago, you only really heard of memes in an academic setting. Today they are part of the cyber vocabulary. Worth the time to read, IMO. Professional reviewers made comparisons to Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, and I find it apt – the picture not so much of the mechanics of what happens, but the people themselves. I found it exceptional and one of the best I have read in several years. I have done an inter-library loan for book two, Daybreak Zero, since our libraries around here don’t have it.

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Review: Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice
Fire and Ice by Paul Garrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A solid thriller about a man and his doctor wife who sailed the south China seas on their small yacht with their daughter, stopping at al the local islands and attending to people in distress. In reality they were running away from a past that had happened to them, not because of anything they had done. One day they get a distress call from a supertanker – someone needs help. But at the same time, on the atoll where they are to be picked up, is a man dying of gunshot wounds. The father, Michael, decides to stay and help the old Polynesian sailor, while his wife and daughter board the super tanker and help the passenger there. Before he know what is happening, their boat is picked up, swung aboard and the tanker leaves him stranded on the tiny atoll, while his wife and daughter are aboard the supertanker. Having no idea of who or why, Michael sets out on a journey across the China seas, looking for help along the way. In his search he goes to Palau, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and eventually Tokyo as he tries to unravel the mystery of his wife’s disappearance and apparent kidnapping, while he is being followed by thugs out to kill him. In between his adventures are the ones of his wife and daughter on board the tanker as they themselves try and figure out where they are, and how they can get safely back. Full of sailing terms and nautical stuff, it’s still a good yarn. You don’t have to know how to reef a sail to appreciate the majesty and terror of the high seas. Unique and powerful.

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Review: 01-01-00

01-01-00
01-01-00 by R.J. Pineiro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, although written for the millennium, still is a good book. Since we have a newly calculated doomsday theory ready for us this winter, I thought it would be fun to drag this one out of the box and read it. It was sparked by a 01.01.00 marketing campaign, but the author is good, and keeps it to strictly a computer/SF/Mayan thriller. As the millennium approaches, a computer virus starts attacking virtually all computers across the wold, shutting them down at the same time each night, starting about 20 days before the millennium, for 20 seconds, and each succeeding day one second less – a countdown. Meanwhile, astronomers in Chile have found a signal coming from a planet in a nearby system that appears to be real – a SETI-type signal. And someone wants to learn what is at the ned of the computer virus, and or how to control or stop it, thus making themselves extremely rich and powerful, so they follow the FBI computer analyst who is trying to figure out what it means.. So begins the frantic search for clues, locations, and eventually tying together all the loose threads in the middle of the Yucatan. A bit touchy feely at the end, but then it is a millennium book. I enjoyed it, and found the chase to be good, some interesting characters, with some gruesome scenes of death.

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Review: Kill Decision

Kill Decision
Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an explosive novel. Like his two previous novels, Suarez takes onto the cutting edge of technology and gives you a what-if scenario. Starting with drone attacks, planned and unplanned, and then on to a myrmecologist, studying weaver ant social structure in Africa, and posting her algorithm structures of their activities on-line. Weaver ants are unique in that they are the most aggressive species and of the few species besides man that seeks out and destroys rivals. They don’t just wait until they invade – they seek them out. They communicate through a trail of pheromones, and through that complex scent trail, can lead other ants to food, defense, or offense. Unfortunately, her research has been hijacked by an unknown group and used to form a drone army. She gets dragged into it, since it’s her algorithms that form the drone swarm behavior. Along with her is a super secret special ops guy named Odin and his trusty team. Fascinating look at ants, but also a terrifying glimpse into the abyss of automated weaponized objects. Not all the drones were actual drones. Some were built to look like real animals and insects. The group must thwart an attack that could start of WWIII, and force the nations of the earth into a drone build-up, something to be avoided at all costs. Suarez as usual does a great job at not only drawing you into this very complex web of action and intrigue and technology, but also alerting you to the possibilities that lie only small steps away. There are plenty of links at the back of the book to shore up his research. One to read and be scared of.

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Review: Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel

Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel
Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel by James Rollins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the latest Sigma Force thriller from Rollins. Since this one is focused almost entirely on the group’s main adversary, it does help to have read at least some of the more recent books in the series, to understand not only the subtle relationships between the group, but also the history with the Guild, the arch-nemesis of Sigma. Sigma is a shadowy governmental force, buried deep within DARPA, which is comprised of Painter Crowe, the leader, with his girlfriend, a doctor named Lisa, Grey Pierce, the head of the field team, Kowalski, a big bear of an ex-special forces soldier, Monk, one of the team, whose loss of a hand in combat a number of books back led to a sort of early retirement and house-husband duties as his family expands to two kids, and his wife Kat, also an agent who has left the field, but returns for this one mission. Add in Seichan, a former Guild operative, a new but promising young computer expert Jason, and a new temporary, but likely to return team of Tucker and his war dog, Kane, a highly trained dog with a thousand voice commands and hundred of hand signals, who help proves to be invaluable when the president’s daughter is kidnapped while 8 months pregnant. She and her husband fled the family’s compound after she received information that led her to think she and her baby were in danger. As they chase the leads from Somalia to Dubai, and back to South Carolina, the action if high, the tech is out of this world, and the bio ethics cutting edge. The Guild is exposed, but not dead. At the end, he gives a number of links to various sites where you can find more information to back up much of the research in the book, and some of the fascinating facts. A fitting piece to the Sigma Force.

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Review: Utopia

Utopia
Utopia by Lincoln Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great one by Lincoln Child, writing solo. This is the second go around for me, previously having read it about 8 plus years ago. It is a very well-researched, strong thriller in an amusement park, miles outside of Las Vegas, set in a deep chasm, so that visitors approach the front of the park on ground level, and it falls away behind the park to several levels of offices, maintenance etc, . The park is under a large dome, sectioned into four themes – Gaslight, a perfectly recreated Victorian London, complete with Jack the Ripper holograms waving bloody knives and running around, fog, and tea, lots of it. It also “rains” every so often, just for about 90 seconds, a light mist, just enough to keep it cool and damp. It even smells like old London might. The next is Callisto, a bustling spaceport, with tons of fabulous roller coasters and scream rides, along with robots. All the robots are connected to a main frame via a metanet, or AI intelligence device that takes what the robots have “learned” each day, uploads it to the mainframe, and down loads it back to them each morning. The next is Boardwalk, a recreation of a turn-of-the-century boardwalk, like Coney Island, down to the costumes, food and rides – a wooden rollercoaster cleverly disguising the latest in modern roller coaster technology with a steel inner frame. The last is Camelot, a medieval recreation, complete with staged battle scenes and shows, with fire breathing dragons. Specialists are brought in from everywhere, to ensure that the park is perfect – food specialists in history, orchid specialists to tend to the orchids, fireworks guys, and Andrew Warne, who has been summoned by his one time love, now head of the park, Sarah, to look at the metanet, due to some possible bugs. A widower, he brings along his teen daughter Georgia to let her have some fun after what he thinks is a short meeting. But he is told he will have to dismantle the whole metanet, his baby and the vision of the original founder of the park, now dead, Eric Nightingale, who envisioned more of an immersive experience and less on rides, and casinos, and vendors. Warne is appalled, it is his life’s work, and since he is currently floundering , he needs this metanet to work. They start looking at why there have been one-time glitches in various robots, with one major one in a ride that resulted in a broken leg. As they dig deeper they begin to see that the code has been altered, but by whom. Meanwhile, upstairs in the offices, Sarah is being visited by an arrogant man, who says he controls the park, and she must do as he says. As he stages bigger and worse accidents around the park, they must race to save the park and themselves, as they are effectively trapped inside the dome,with a madman and his crew holding them hostage. Taut, well written, and meticulously researched, this is Child at his best.

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Review: Crashers

Crashers
Crashers by Dana Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first book in a series by new author Dana Haynes involving the NTSB people who descend on a crash site, to examine the evidence, take the plane apart, piece by piece, and determine what went wrong. This can take more than a year. Back on the team, for his expertise, is Tommy Tomzak, a pathologist who had quit the NTSB when the previous crash investigation where he was IIC, the in-charge investigator, never got answered. He happened to be in the area when the Vermeer One Eleven went down in Oregon, carried the most sophisticated black box available. Capable of monitoring over 6000 systems and checking them, it is a new and valuable asset that should cut down the investigation time dramatically. Called in by by Susan Tanaka, an inter-governmental liaison from the NTSB on this crash, is Kiki Duvall, a voice recorder specialist, known as a”sonar witch” from her years on subs, who can hear things that others can’t, and an ex-flame of Tommy’s, and a number of other specialists, all vying for their part of the turf. At first they determine that there was no bomb and that it was pilot error, but they still have to finish the investigation and tie up loose ends, and it’s those “loose ends” that help Tommy and Kiki determine that there might be another explanation. Switching from the investigation to the FBI field offices in LA, and their Israel asset, Daria, who also gets dragged in from that angle, until finally the pieces begin to line up. A great, interesting view into what it takes to investigate a crash, and the many methods that can be used. I’ve already got book 2 on hold at the library.

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Review: The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home
The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Second in the series about Charlie West, who in the last book, woke up in a torture chamber, unable to recall why he was there, or what happened. He escaped, and he gradually finds out that he is wanted for murder of an old friend of his, and that he was tried and convicted and sentenced to jail, but escaped, and somehow ended up with a bunch of home-grown terrorists allied with Islamist fundamentalists. In this book, he escapes the clutches of the police, who found him as he tried to get more information about his trial, etc., and he decides to head back to his hometown. His parents have moved away, and he doesn’t want to get them or his friends in trouble – just try and do some sleuthing on his own. But they figure this out, and surprise him by showing up at a childhood spot they figured he might go to. Along with them is a girl he admired, Beth, who turns out was his girlfriend for that past year – he just doesn’t recall it. But in the lonely hours between sleuthing, she fills in some of the gaps, and he figures out at least one of the players that might have framed him for the murder and gotten him involved with these “Homelanders.” A lot of the book is filled with his thoughts and memories of his karate lessons, his sensei Mike, and the dojo, which figure prominently in how he processes things. A good book, not great, but interesting, easy to read, and there are still two more to go. These are slight books -together all four would have made a decent longer book, but they are at an easier level, although the plot isn’t really for the middle set. Just an easier read, probably to bring boys, who are generally not as into reading at that age, into the fold. These are definitely “guy” stories, but I still enjoyed them. Lots of action, some even nail-biting, and humor move the story along.

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Review: Streams of Babel

Streams of Babel
Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one is a little bit different. It revolves around the lives of a group of kids living on a street in a small town in southern New Jersey, who’s parents take ill, then they get sick themselves, and there are questions about what it is – a flu, a virus, or something worse?  The fact that these sick kids, although teenagers, are sort of left on their own in one of their houses where the mom died, is rather unbelievable.  The action switches to a computer hacker, age 16, in Afghanistan who works for the US government, sending them spy chatter he captures in his uncle’s internet cafe from the visitors who use it. The rest of the story is about how the boy becomes integral to taking down a terrorist cell, how the kids get sicker, and how although the adults in the story are working on it (one parent works for a branch of the government sort like a bio-threat CDC), it is the teenage Afghan hacker, and an American hacker, that really find the terrorists. It’s a good read, exciting, without being bloody or inappropriate for 12 years and up I would say. I enjoyed it, esp. the young hacker, and the one in the U.S. who is also very good, but a trifle unstable, and isn’t given the opportunities of this other kid. Fun, but not terribly memorable for me.

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