121 of 147 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a (holy) Ghost in the machine
Blasphemy is the story of a group of researchers at Isabella, the new US government financed $40 billion particle accelerator, located on an Arizona reservation leased from the Navajos. The main goal of the accelerator is to recreate conditions just after the Big Bang, to test modern theories of the creation of the universe. When the newly completed accelerator fails...
Published on January 12, 2008 by James Tepper
49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars `It seems that both of our creator stories have origin problems'
The world's most powerful particle accelerator, Isabella, buried deep in an Arizona mountain is the most expensive machine ever built. The purpose of the machine is to explore what happened at the moment of creation, but there is a fear that it may suck the earth into a miniature black hole.
Against a backdrop of rising concern about the money spent, the team...
Published on July 19, 2008 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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121 of 147 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a (holy) Ghost in the machine,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)Blasphemy is the story of a group of researchers at Isabella, the new US government financed $40 billion particle accelerator, located on an Arizona reservation leased from the Navajos. The main goal of the accelerator is to recreate conditions just after the Big Bang, to test modern theories of the creation of the universe. When the newly completed accelerator fails to get on-line as quickly as expected, the Feds send in an operative under cover as a Navajo liaison to find out what has gone wrong. Turns out a lot has, either as the result of deliberate sabotage, a bug in the software, or something really strange. Mix in a few thousand fundamentalist Christians who view the whole thing as an attempt by anti-religious atheistic scientists to disprove the existence of God and undermine the good book, incited to a frenzied pitch by a slick televangelist huckster and a well-meaning but psychotic and delusional fundamentalist minister on the Rez, season with elements of the AntiChrist, miniature black holes and the possibility of a really large explosion, and you have all the ingredients for a suspenseful and successful potboiler.
The writing is crisp and lean and everything moves very fast. The book is hard to put down as it is very much plot-driven and paced and parsed very well, and, well, you just have to find out what happens next. Do not read this if you contributed regularly to the ministries of Jerry Falwell or Jim Baker or if you disliked the Preston-Childs collaborative novels featuring the irrepressible Agent Pendergast. On the other hand, if you have recently finished and were impressed by "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris or "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins and/or their intellectual brethren, I predict you will find this novel very amusing. In spite of a hole in the plot big enough to land a 747 in (sorry - no spoilers here - if interested see my comment), this novel is great fun and highly recommended.
49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars `It seems that both of our creator stories have origin problems',
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)The world's most powerful particle accelerator, Isabella, buried deep in an Arizona mountain is the most expensive machine ever built. The purpose of the machine is to explore what happened at the moment of creation, but there is a fear that it may suck the earth into a miniature black hole.
Against a backdrop of rising concern about the money spent, the team of 12 scientists led by Gregory North Hazelius is under increasing pressure to demonstrate the value of the project. In addition there are rising Christian fundamentalist views that the plan is a satanic attempt to disprove the book of Genesis, as well as concerns about the project by the Navajo people (on whose reservation the site is located). There seem to be problems in getting Isabella on line and Wyman Ford is implanted within the team to report back to government about what is really happening.
This novel is marketed as thriller about religion and science. It could also be marketed as an illustration of a triad of hubristic cynicism: government, science and religion all seeking to manipulate public opinion. What makes the novel work, on one level, for me is that none of the players demonstrate superiority and while each fail in different ways the end result demonstrates that nothing substantive has been learned.
I found this an interesting way to spend a few hours on a rainy afternoon: plenty of action, albeit with predictable outcomes.
98 of 127 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Horribly melodramatic,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)Douglas Preston has really been on a roll with his last two solo novels. In "Tyrannosaur Canyon" he has this theory about how the dinosaurs had died...and then he proceeded to restate it a dozen times throughout the story to the point where it actually eclipsed anything happening in the book. In "Blasphemy", he suddenly gives us a glimpse into his theory of science as God.
We are treated to pages-long tirades about how faith and science cannot co-exist, one must destroy the other. About how science is the true religion and God has never spoken to man before. The villains of the story are Christians...but not like any you've ever met in real life. They are melodramatic caricatures of the real thing. They somehow manage to form a killing mob in the middle of the desert two hours after an email goes out...so ridiculously unrealistic I can't see how this made it past any sane editor. Christians will ignore every other End-Times prophecy in the world, but when a lone pastor in a tiny mission writes them about this dangerous new thing called a "kohm-pew-tur" using something called "ee-leck-tri-sit-ee" and how this has to be the Anti-Christ, they come out in droves to kill the demon machine and its creator? Yeah, that's realistic. And the ramblings of Isabella/whoever sound honestly like a physicist on an LSD trip just chattering away at every freaky theory he's ever had in his life. And yes, I got the little twist at the end that's supposed to explain the machine, but that still doesn't excuse the flat characters and ridiculously over-the-top plot. When Ford is in the control room looking at the faces of these stoic atheist scientists who are suddenly becoming converted by this computer, it's like something out of a bad movie. They ridicule the "crutch" of religion throughout the story, but then wholly embrace their own version of it without batting an eye later? Sure.
I think Preston really needs to treat Lincoln Child well, because it appears Child is the one in the writing duo who keeps the Pendergast stories sane and interesting. It's really a shame that his solo work has gone so downhill lately, because I thought "The Codex" was amazing. Hopefully Preston will approach his next solo novel with the idea to tell a good story, not write a scientific theory with a few characters thrown in to call it a novel.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Novel of "Big Ideas" that comes up short,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)Douglas Preston, along with his frequent collaborator, Lincoln Child, has written some of the more memorable science-based thrillers of the past decade. The novels involving their very original protaganist, FBI Agent Pendergast, usually are well plotted, expertly paced, and written with scares and some of the supernatural in mind. With Blasphemy, Preston's third major novel without Child, the ideas and the plot is there, but the pacing is weak and the story a bit much even for a Sci-fi fan like myself.
The novel centers around a former CIA-agent turned monk turned PI with the unlikely name of Wyman Ford. He is tasked by the President's Science Advisor to investigate what is happening at Isabella, the largest Superconducting Supercollider in the world, a project that the President has hung his legacy on and that has cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars. Isabella, it seems, is not working as it should, and Congress is threatening to pull funding. Unless Ford can get the team of scientists at the site to admit what the real problems are, the project may be doomed.
The Isablla project is run by the enigmatic Dr. Hazelius, a super-genius who is trying to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang so that science can learn more about the creation of the Universe, and other big scientific questions. Hazelius is probably the best written character in the novel, as all of his motivations and actions, as they are revealed, make a very good logical sense. He feels like a real person, not just like a character in the book.
The problem with Blasphemy is that Hazelius is the only really well-defined character. Ford, essentially spying on the scientists, is at first only in it for the money, but his heart changes when he discovers the ex Love of his Life is one of the chief researchers. His character acts mostly as a sounding board for the other characters to run through the philisophical and theological arguments that come up in the book.
The theological elements are also a problem. The book is trying to start a debate about how and if religion and science can coexist. The Isabella project is under verbal assault from a televangelist who feels like a cross between Jim Bakker and Jerry Falwell, and who never seems like more than a cipher than a real character. He's obstensably the villian of the piece, but he's such a caricature it's hard to take him seriously or what his actions lead to seriously either, and since his actions spur the last third of the book, I found my interest in the novel waning. The religion vs. science debate is a debate worth having, but Preston makes the mistake of setting up strawman arguments for the science side to strike down, and then escallating the religious wackos into militant crazies by the final act.
There are too many threads running around and the message that Preston is sending, while noble in my eyes, is lost in the poor characterization and motivation for both the hero's and the villains. The action is well described and the book reads quickly, but I would recommend a visit to the library for this one over a purchase. Preston may have a great novel in him yet, but this is not it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)For such a fabulous premise (world's largest particle accelerator and the associated research agenda becomes the subject of political and religious conflict), this book falls far short of my expectations. It was so-so, at best.
First, Douglas Preston relies very heavily on stereotypes of characters rather than writing characters who are unique and interesting. For instance, the televangelist is a large, sweating closet alcoholic who (it is implied at one point) has an eye for young boys. The religious opponents to Isabella (the particle accelerator) are raving lunatics who can't think for themselves and are easily (and quite quickly) worked into a violent religious fury by a letter forwarded nationwide by a missionary on the Navajo reservation. The reaction by "God's army," in particular, is laughable. The scientists are all emotionally unstable atheists. And even the main character - a former CIA operative who has been in a monastary for the past few years - doesn't muster much interest. I wish Preston had moved beyond the obvious "character types" and created characters who instill some interest and emotion.
Second, some of the elements of the plot were just preposterous. And I'm not talking about how God apparently speaks from a tear in the space/time continuum caused by Isabella. That was one of the more interesting plot developments. I'm talking about the more mundane parts of the plot that are simply unfeasible or unbelievable. For instance - could the largest particle accelerator in the world be built within a president's first four year term? Probably not, yet that is the time frame we're looking at. Building Isabella is the president's technological coup, so the political and religious furor it causes before going on line is a real concern since the president is facing reelection. Also, has Preston been to the Navajo reservation area of Arizona? How could an emailed missive from a reservation missionary result in "God's army" appearing within mere hours of his sending out the letter? How could thousands have answered the call and made it to a remote, isolated area of the reservation by driving across country rather than on highways? I can more easily suspend my disbelief about God talking through a particle accelerator than believe the time frames the author sets up.
Lastly, I found it difficult to care about any of these characters. By the end, I was cheering for the fanatics and hoping Isabella would blow up so I could just get it over with.
I bought this book because the premise was unique and potentially exciting. I'm afraid that a good idea isn't enough though. Blasphemy just doesn't deliver.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)Blasphemy is as much a commentary on religion, science and fanaticism as it is a fictional novel. I finished the book at a record pace and was immensely enthralled from beginning to end. I would place this novel in my Top Five favorite works of all time as it still has me reflecting on its message and implications relating to science and religion in our world today.
In a nutshell, a group of elite, well rounded scientists from various backgrounds and expertise build an enormous supercollider named Isabella. Located in Northeast Arizona, Isabella is able to replicate the point of singularity of the "Big Bang Theory" giving further insight to the origins of the universe. The ideas are well researched and based on sound applications including quantum physics, particle theory, astronomy, etc Working against the scientists are various religious based factions claiming the project was seeking to play and replace God.
Clearly, this novel may be upsetting to Christians or anyone else of faith due to the atheistic overtones presented from the scientists as well as the results of the experiment with Isabella. I believe this is exactly what Preston intended to do since science and Christianity are often in conflict. Presented within Blasphemy is the notion Christianity has its origins from long dead primitive man whose core beliefs were predicated on primitive ideas such as propagation (old testament) and survival against a domineering culture oppressive of religious ideology (new testament).
Blasphemy is a must read for free thinkers, philosophers and any one else independent from the shackles of religion. If you are one such person who has been blinded by the biggest sham ever in the history of humanity which we call organized religion, then this book is not for you. Admittedly, I have been unsuccessful in writing an impartial review, but given the highly controversial subject matter, can anyone?
31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Foolish Depiction of Large Scale Science,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)Douglas Preston's "Blasphemy" depicts the world's most powerful new particle accelerator, costing 40 billion dollars, as being operated by only twelve people (only ten scientists plus a gonzo security agent and a dippy psychologist) with no support staff and no guards (other than the one bozo). No electrical communication with the outside is allowed from the underground area of the accelerator during its operation because, so we're told, somebody could use the electronic communication system to hack into the accelerator mainframe computers, even though scientists would obviously have a physically separate communications system if hacking were a concern. Of the 12 people, three of the female scientists are beautiful; two of them "hit" on one of the male main characters. They all talk at a scientifically superficial level, often without skepticism. When the particle accelerator is operating at full capacity, it shakes the entire mountain under which it's constructed, and whines and screams loudly. The plot's conclusion is wildly foolish, totally unbelievable, contrary to the character of a Nobel Prize Winner. The Evangelical Christians are cardboard cutouts depicted as stupid and superficial in every way. And finally, the control room of the accelerator is described as having been consciously built like the "bridge" of the Star Trek Enterprise.
36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lame, lame, lame!,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)I've enjoyed other works by Preston, especially his collaborations with Lincoln Child, but this book is terrible. I could only get through half of it. I couldn't suspend disbelief to the levels required by this novel.
The problems I have with Blasphemy have been raised by others, but here are ones I found most annoying:
(1) It is a ridiculus portrayal of big science. A dozen people -- most of whom have a mental illness, substance abuse problem or personality disorder -- operating a 40 billion dollar particle accelerator(at start up, no less)? One security guy -- no technicians, no janitors, no firefighters, no oversight. Budget cuts, I guess.
(2) Cardboard cutout characters. The author relies on stereotypes as a substitute for character development. I never came to care about any of these characters. For the most part they weren't credible or likable in the least.
(3) Awful, unbelievable, and stupid dialogue. Wow. This book must have been thrown together in a hurry, perhaps to meet a contractual obligation. The dialogue is juvenile. After Kate remarked, "Don't ma'am me, I've got a PhD" to the Navaho medicine man I couldn't take it anymore.
(4) The premise of the book is okay, but when Preston puts his ideas in the mouths of physicists and "the smartest man in the world" they come up short. I feel sorry for the characters that got stuck sounding arrogant and condescending while lecturing common folk about what happened BEFORE the big bang. (Hey, I guess I actually can connect with some of the characters.)
In the "praise for Blasphemy" section that precedes these reviews, Lincoln Child is quoted as saying, "One way or another, I'm afraid he may burn for this book." Maybe, but don't count on it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Premise...Poor Execution,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)The premise of "Blasphemy" is that a team of the most brilliant scientists in the world build a forty billion dollar machine in Arizona to recreate "the big bang" and believe they may have contacted God instead.
The first half of the book moves along fairly well, but it becomes obvious that every character has been cut and pasted in from somebody's catalog of stereotypes: the ex-intelligence officer that gets all the women, the conniving lawyer, the crooked politician, the corrupt televangelist, the egotistical scientist, the drunken Native American...you get the picture.
There is some cleverness to the book. Unfortunately the great premise and the final twist to the story get swallowed up by the stock characters and a second half that feels like someone was writing under tremendous deadline pressure without an editor to back them up.
25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good Lord This Was Bad!,
This review is from: Blasphemy (Hardcover)I'm a definite fan of the Preston/Child Special Agent Pendergast series, but I'm wondering now if poor Mr. Child has to keep Mr. Preston reined in from going off the deep end when they co-write those books. Quite frankly, "Blasphemy" is so far off the deep end that an abyss would seem shallow. I am agnostic and have often been negatively put off by judgmental and hypocritical Christians (and especially televangelists), but they are all portrayed as such cartoonish buffoons in this train wreck, that it even made ME cringe. I saw the ultimate "revelation" coming from miles away. And some of the plot-holes were as big as...an abyss! This was just embarrassing, and I'm ashamed to admit that I actually finished it. Word to the wise: Don't bother.
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Blasphemy by Douglas Preston (Hardcover - January 8, 2008)
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