From Publishers Weekly
Set in and around the city of Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell physics professor McEuen's fiction debut successfully mixes science and suspense. When Liam Connor—an 86-year-old Cornell emeritus professor of biology, a Nobel Prize winner, and pioneer in the field of nanoscience—inexplicably jumps to his death off a bridge into one of Ithaca's gorges, the entire community is stunned, especially Connor's granddaughter, Maggie, and his academic confidant, professor Jake Sterling. But when micro-robots—silicon and metal constructs that Connor helped create—are found in his stomach, Maggie and Jake realize that he didn't commit suicide: he was tortured before being murdered. As they race to unravel cryptic messages Connor left behind, his ruthless killer plots to unleash an ingenious biological "doomsday weapon" with origins all the way back to WWII Japan. While the cutting-edge science and apocalyptic backdrop power the narrative, it's the cast of endearing characters and their interpersonal relationships and struggles that make this emotionally intense and thought-provoking novel so readable. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* It�s hard to reckon with the realization that a prominent scientist in a cutting-edge field, writing his first novel in his �spare time,� has created what may be the most gripping and engrossing thriller this reviewer has ever read in almost 50 years of thriller reading. But facts are facts, and the opinion is considered. McEuen has created an indelible hero in 85-year-old Liam Connor, a diminutive scientific giant. But Liam dies at the hands of a brilliant, merciless female assassin within the first 50 pages. He is entrancing, and McEuen�s decision to kill him off so quickly shows authorial panache. Left to unravel a complex scheme to launch the �most devastating terrorist attack in human history� are Liam�s granddaughter, her nine-year-old son, and one of Liam�s colleagues, Jake Sterling, a Cornell physicist. McEuen, also a Cornell physicist, wisely writes about what he knows�science, nanoscience, and Cornell�but also shows a true gift for plotting, pace, characterization, and writerly clarity. He mines relatively little-known history about Japan�s horrific experiments with biological weapons in WWII. He offers brief, lucid disquisitions on science; notes that a large university is the ideal place to begin a global plague; posits that �synthetic biology� will surpass silicon microelectronics as the next big technological wave; and remarkably, he makes these ideas accessible to typical thriller aficionados. A stunning achievement. --Thomas Gaughan