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Monday, May 2, 2011

Spiral--Paul McEuen

Of the three books I mentioned in my post below, this was the next easiest.  I breezed through it in less than a full day of reading and given its compelling writing and subject matter, it is easy to imagine that the interested reader would do likewise.

McEuen, in this novel at least, is vying to join the ranks of Preston and Cloud, Rollins, Reilly, and Maberry.  While nowhere near as armaments oriented as the last two, neither is the plot nearly as convoluted as the first two.  And that makes for a satisfying, deeply interesting, and intelligent read.

More intriguing is that Mr. McEuen, while he may not be aware of it, also brings the strains of a fascinating Japanese horror film into his book.  The "Spiral" of the title is Uzumaki  (the Japanese word for Spiral and the name of a fascinating and grotesque Japanese horror film about people who turn into snails as the result of a curse--or something--as with most Japanese horror, the cause is never really quite there.)  Uzumaki in the book is the name of a spectacularly devastating weaponized fungal contagion that the Japanese developed at the end of World War II as a sort of Doomsday machine. The book is the story of this fungus, a fungal researcher who is made aware of it at the end of the War and who dedicates his life to finding a "cure" for it, and the group of family and friends who go through the wonderful experience 60 years later of its resurrection.

Doomsday scenarios are fascinating, but McEuen hits all the right keys in this study with nanotech, bioweapons, and other amazing technology combined with solid science and good, understated writing.  Most on-target is his identification of a fungus as potentially the most destructive of all biotrech weapons.  One need only think of the past instances or ergot and similar infestations and of the potential for destruction of something as prevalent as Aspergillus niger. Of the writers mentioned above, I would say that his control and voice are most like Rollins's, but in terms of popular writing McEuen may be even a little better, a little more in control, a little more polished.

This is truly a remarkable first novel--fun, funny (at times), intelligent, fast paced; it truly grabs the reader and keeps her/him involved from beginning to end.  If you're looking for fun, fast, light (but seriously intelligent) this is the book to pick up before your next readathon.

For those looking for all of this in a book, highest recommendation--*****.

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