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The Cryptos Conundrum Hardcover – June 19, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765318776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765318770
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,485,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

CHASE BRANDON is a thirty-five year operations officer in the CIA’s Clandestine Service. He lived undercover for twenty-five years and retired from undercover assignments in 2006, but continues to consult with several intelligence community agencies, the Department of Defense, and numerous state and federal law enforcement organizations. In his final assignment, Brandon was a senior staff officer for the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, serving as an Agency spokesman and CIA's official liaison to the entertainment industry. He provided technical consultation to many feature films, television series, and documentary programs, such as Mission Impossible III, The Bourne Identity, Alias, and 24, and the Discovery, Learning, and Military Channels.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


The cordite-clouded sky flashed sparks of primordial fire. And Earth’s anvil shook with concussions that pounded his body and soul as though smithed by Thor’s angry-red hammer. In terrified awe, Dr. Jonathan S. Chalmers Jr. watched as blinding artillery bursts and dismembering detonations reinforced the enemy’s specter of Death that he felt already overshadowed him.
Cold, wet, wounded, and a lifetime’s distance from his family in New York, Chalmers gripped the steel barrel and bloodstained stock of his 8mm French Lebel, but he would gladly have swapped the rifle for a crystal brandy snifter.
A brilliant mathematician, Chalmers was a scholar and gentleman completely out of his affluent Long Island element. Against reasonable odds or definable logic, he was also a private in the U.S. Army and at present trapped in a gash of dangerous dirt between France and Germany known as the Western Front. Here, a form of human slaughter called trench warfare raged unabated with the rising sun of each new day in a world at war with itself.
Chalmers knew that the gruesome horror of this historic killing zone was already immortalized in the battlefield term no-man’s-land—a realm that his knotted guts and analytical mind told Chalmers was nightmarish beyond even his own vivid imagination.
Chalmers clutched his circular ID tags, their cool metal a talisman for him. He surveyed the trench to his left and right. Flanked by shattered bodies, he saw his dead friends as harbingers of his own anticipated fate.
Chalmers had been sent up to reinforce the 407th French Rifle Regiment two weeks ago with a platoon of American volunteers, including longtime friend and fellow New Yorker Paul Baker, as well as some British regulars. He’d been under siege and without sleep for so long that he’d lost all track of time.
“So tell me again, John,” Baker said. “What the hell are we doing here?”
“Saving the French by holding this line. Didn’t you listen to that lieutenant’s briefing, le bâtard who sent us into this rats’ nest?”
“Yeah, right. Guess I overlooked the part about the Krauts trying to wipe us out.”
Both men were scared, though they tried not to show it.
They winced, recoiling again from the thundering bombardment now under way to destroy fortifications and trench systems along a twenty-mile front from Bois d’Avocourt to Étain.
German Krupp howitzers, called Big Berthas, should have finished the demolition in a matter of days. But both of them were still here, still alive and holding this line—even though the French fortification at Douaumont had been captured by German infantrymen.
Chalmers knew it was only a matter of time until the Krauts pushed them back or overran the allied stronghold here in Alpha Sector. If they survived the night, their orders were to go over the top at first light and claw across a five-hundred-yard-wide strip of barbed-wire hell. And if they made it to the other side, fight the Fritzies man to man with bayonets, and then bare hands.
The killing zone, Chalmers thought. A suicide charge into no-man’s-land.
Chalmers touched his heart, then pulled a photo of Margaret from his tunic’s breast pocket. He could make out her features in the sudden glare of a bomb’s blast. He loved her deeply and felt this was probably his last chance to look upon her face.
Chalmers felt his friend nudge him. He quickly replaced the photo.
“Seems like an eternity since we enlisted, huh?”
Chalmers nodded. “Maybe longer.” He scoured mud from his rifle breech with his sleeve. “Sorry I snookered you into this latrine. Rotten thing to do, Paul.”
“Aw, it’s all right. I’ve always been your shadow. You couldn’t have come without me … just don’t leave without me, okay?” he said with a weak grin.
*   *   *
Chalmers and Baker had been neighbors and inseparable pals since they were still in short pants. Two years older, Chalmers had always been like a big brother to Baker.
Tall, lanky, and with angular good looks, Chalmers had excelled in lacrosse in his early years but quit the sport in favor of academics.
Baker was short and stocky, and though quite smart, he tended to muscle his way through life’s challenges, having eventually earned his law degree and joined his father’s practice more through sheer grit than a scholar’s grasp of jurisprudence.
A year ago, they’d been safe on Oyster Bay, Long Island, secure in the warmth of their parents’ love and their families’ wealth, power, and influence. Although he’d recently married, Chalmers still lived in the stone mansion that had housed generations of Chalmers families. Baker still lived just down the road with his parents as well.
It was a near perfect world they’d willingly left in favor of this deadly trench.
Even more than Baker, Chalmers had been born and raised in privilege, with every advantage of wealth and sophistication his parents could give him. Chalmers’s father, the man he’d been named after, was a successful ship line attorney and investment banker. Chalmers’s French mother had always been a tender caregiver to her son. She was a consummate homemaker and devoted wife.
She’d told her son, when he was just a young boy, that she’d met his father on one of his business trips to the Continent. They’d fallen in love at first sight. He was their only child, and he’d always tried his best to live up to their love and expectations. He had set a high achievement bar for himself as well, especially in the field of education.
Most who knew Chalmers described him as being blessed with extraordinary, if not incomparable, intelligence. When Chalmers was only a few months old, he’d already begun to demonstrate awareness, physical prowess, and nascent communication skills that astounded his parents and the family physician.
*   *   *
Now twenty-six years old, Chalmers held doctoral degrees in mathematics and engineering physics from Columbia University. Before enlisting, he’d been a professor, head of his department, and the youngest man to hold that job. His students and university colleagues believed Chalmers was a true savant, the most brilliant individual they had ever known.
He’d never set a foot off the path his parents had planned for him, nor his own pursuit of knowledge, until the day he’d seen the recruiting poster. Its patriotic message spoke to his idealism and sense of adventure, and constituted what Chalmers called the convergence of coincidence—a force majeure of unrelated events that shaped one’s life, that perhaps defined the concept of life itself. He believed in the power of that force.
Chalmers Senior believed that his son’s abrupt decision to enlist would, “in hateful fashion,” as he’d put it, change the young man’s life, and he had argued vehemently against it. Jonathan Chalmers had stood his ground—and now occupied it in the soggy bottom of this trench.
Baker was here too, having followed Chalmers’s lead by signing up the next day. Both of them now faced another moment of convergence, waiting for the only thing they knew could ever end their friendship … Death.

Copyright © 2012 by Chase Brandon

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Customer Reviews

Not my cup of tea.
Pat Beckman
I found the story boring at times and lacking the quality of really involving the reader with the characters and what they were feeling.
Thomas P
In the later phases of the book, each chapter skipped even more time.
Gail Rodgers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By K. Franklin VINE VOICE on June 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In defense of the author, he knows his CIA history. I will give him that. But this book is one weird piece of writing.

Is it sci-fi? Is it a thriller? Is it New Age? Is it Crypto-Mormon? (No insult to Mormons, here) Halfway through the book I still wasn't sure. Really. I wanted to believe. I love X-Files and Star Trek...but this one misses the mark.

First of all you have this unkillable guy named Chalmers. He fights in WWI and doesn't die. He doesn't age, so he signs up for WWII and also doesn't die. He has visions of angels/beings that rescue him now and again. He has no love life, doesn't relate to other human beings, doesn't LIKE anyone in particular or believe anything in particular, but he gets consulted on everything everywhere, in every generation. Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon. It's all the same to the genius Chalmers. Oh, and there have been versions of Chalmers all through history.

The angels, or alien beings, or whatever they are, are supposedly in charge of planets. They have names like WON, and TU, Tha-Ree, Vor, and Fieva - you get the idea. Their "headmaster" is (surprise!) named Ga'Lawed. There are twelve of them. And every day (in eternity) they are sent out to seed new worlds. And the day they go out is called SUNDE. Get it? Sometimes they leave the apes alone to evolve, sometimes they interbreed. So, one of these angels (Number Fieva) becomes disgruntled with the boredom of his eternal chore and gets the naughty idea to interfere in an evil way, and that is where all the evil aliens (Roswell, UFOs, greys and Reticulans) come from. It is convoluted, weird, and could have been fun or scary or compelling. Unfortunately, it is just boring.

I would not recommend this book to anyone.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gail Rodgers VINE VOICE on June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading what previews I could, before picking this book to read, I thought I would have a fascinating look into the CIA and the work it took for a man to decode a piece of sculpture in front of the CIA headquarters. Then I started reading the book and soon was wondering if this was fantasy, science fiction, future history (as Robert Heinlein wrote), suspense, religious allegory, or a brief history of the USA. I guess it was a mixture of them all which is rather difficult to do in one book and I don't think that this author was successful at accomplishing it either.

The book basically covered over 2000 years of time over the course of 112 chapters with some of those chapters being only a page long and jumping a decade or more in time. In the later phases of the book, each chapter skipped even more time. While we knew that the main character for most of the book (and after that his descendents) was a brilliant genius in math could read two books at the same time and in a few minutes each, he came to solutions to problems faster that most computers of our time could, and for the book's sake was the one behind the throne, advising the presidents and his staff in succession in what to do to keep the USA running properly and avoiding trouble with other countries and the space aliens that were also targeting the earth.

Other than the fact that he was aging at a much shorter rate than his colleagues, we don't know much about the man personally until at one point he goes on a date and in the book's fashion about two paragraphs later they were married. Somewhere in the next few years they had a son but he was walking and talking before we knew he had joined the family.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read this book in near record time, and obviously loved it. I happen to be someone who enjoys cloak and dagger stories, and this book does not disappoint, but it does surprise. Specifically, the synopsis would lead you to believe this is a conventional Robert Ludlum/Jason Bourne-style spy thriller, but it is merely on its face. The story revolves around a CIA analyst of extraordinary mental/technical ability who is the single reason America succeeds (through analysis and planning, not direct action). However, similarities with standard CIA fare end there, and take a very strange turn, lets just say in a certain city in New Mexico rumored to be the resting site of UFOs/ETs. And from there we're led down a parallel story of how this analyst single handedly predicts/defeats all major geopolitical challenges while also preparing the US for his belief of an impending extraterrestrial invasion. Further, while trying to avoid giving away the story, the analyst also can communicate with a God-like force from which he derives super-human mental abilities and knowledge of future events. At this point, you're likely thinking this is a fairly unusual combination of elements, and it is, to say the least. Again, its no conventional spy-thriller, but it surprisingly works, and works very well. I imagine you probably need some basic interest in history/geopolitics/technology to enjoy the book; if you do, run to get this book. Lastly, fans of Neal Stephenson will definitely enjoy this book and note obviously style similarities (lots of technology, author-coined words, quick pacing, etc.).
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