Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Blasphemy - Douglas Preston

Science is the new religion, in Preston's latest thriller, Blasphemy. For those who've read other Douglas Preston thrillers, the usual taut writing is present, and the compelling plot. It is filled with science fiction, horror, and the seemingly supernatural. Not that Blasphemy can be slotted into any of those genres; rather, it has a bit of each.

The book opens with a group of scientists powering-up a new particle accelerator in the middle of Navajo territory. From the first few pages, it is obvious, something is amiss. Thanks to Stephen Hawking's theory on black holes and the immense size of the new accelerator, a singularity is created, and communication with an omnipotent entity begins.

Running through the background of this novel is intrigue, espionage, riots, and the opening thrust of Armageddon. It is a very busy and ambitious work; however, it is not overwhelming. On many levels it tackles parallel issues in the "real" world through the lens of fiction. And it stays on track, with everything working to a climactic and somewhat surprising ending.

Now I qualified the ending with "somewhat" surprising. That's only because if you're a fan of thrillers, then you may (or may not) know the "form" of thriller novels (and every genre has a form). So, for me, the ending was telegraphed early in the book. This is a risk all authors take in genre. In a Western, we expect a showdown, and we expect the hero to win. Sometimes it doesn't happen, most of the time it does. Thrillers work in a similar fashion, but for those who are not familiar with it, I'll not reveal it. This way nothing is "spoiled" in any future reading.

Either way, skilled authors such as Preston know that some readers will anticipate the ending, and in this case, he works with that. He cleverly focuses upon how the end comes about, and what happens with the characters. This keeps even the most veteran reader of thrillers turning the pages. And for those who don't guess the ending, there is the promise of a surprise as well.

Overall, this is a compelling and contemporary book - worth reading by those who normally avoid the genre. It deals with a topic, science and religion, that has been on the minds of many for several centuries. At the same time, it is not mired in either topic. The novel is thought-provoking, but it isn't philosophical, didactic, or overly technical. It is a strong blend of several genres, wrapped into a thriller.

And for those not familiar with Douglas Preston, he often works with Lincoln Child. Together they have penned Relic (made into a film), and the Penderghast series of novels (Penderghast appears in the Relic as well). These books sometimes border on science fiction and the supernatural. If you don't start with Blasphemy, then give one of the Penderghast novels a try - they are a strong, detective/thriller novels, brimming with many brilliant ideas.


Charles Gramlich said...

I definitely will look for this one. Very intersting core idea. Plus, I'm working on an nonfiction book about the conflict between science and religion so this is right down my alley.

Jeff Edwards said...

William, the number of new posts on your blog lately has been impressive! And I've enjoyed your recent book reviews. I've never seen book reviews from you least, none published under your real name. (Might there be some pseudonyms lurking about?)


William Jones said...

Charles - The book is worth reading, particularly with the topic you're working on.

Jeff - Hey Jeff, many thanks! I'm trying to keep up with the blog as of late - although that is tough sometimes. And yes, in the past, I have written reviews under various names. I've long since stopped - except for the blog.