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Stuff I'm reading... Mostly romance and Scifi/Fantasy.

Review: Spiral

Spiral - Paul McEuen

This novel started really well with the story of a young biologist in the British army (Liam Connor) flown out to a US destroyer to assist in the destruction of a biological weapon developed by the Japanese. Liam decides to secretly keep a sample of the weapon to create a cure. This prologue is well written and I immediately felt a connection to the young Liam and his nemesis Kitano. Fast forward 60 years and Liam is a Nobel Laureate specialising in funghi. He is captured by an evil Japanese woman who tortures him for the location of the biological weapon. Liam kills himself rather than give away his secret and leaves clues for his granddaughter (a biologist herself), his 9 year-old grandson, and his protege Jack, an ex-military physics professor, to follow to find the cure. 


It's hard to believe but the author makes the science of funghi fascinating. The nanotechnology used in the 'crawlers', (vectors to transport funghi and bacteria) is likewise amazing. It is all totally believable which makes sense when you see that the author is an award winning Professor of Physics. This is his first book so I'm hoping that he improves his storytelling skills over time to match his science.


At about 35% the story loses its edge. Liam has been killed off which is a shame because his character was so well drawn and sympathetic. None of the other characters have his depth or appeal. The genuine science portion of the story ends and we move into the action part as the psycho killer kidnaps the three heroes and starts to disperse the biological weapon. From here on it's lots of running backwards and forwards, stupid decision making, and gratuitous torture scenes. There are several government agencies brought into the picture but these characters seem to wander around aimlessly and are then forgotten. The CDC was under utilised. The story concentrated more on the old Japanese/US enmity and the killer's actions rather than the medical side of finding a cure. When the cure is found at the end it is very anticlimactic. Lawrence Dunne is a confusing person. I wasn't sure whether to like/hate him? 


Also at the 40% mark the female character Maggie has a major TSTL moment that puts everyone in danger. I hate it when authors do that. If you want your characters in a dangerous situation, find a credible reason to put them there. Don't just make the woman act like a moron.


I hated the bad guy girl in this. She was such a blank emotionless canvas. A one dimensional cartoon character who was some sort of super evil criminal for hire. She really needed some depth or at least a glimpse of her humanity to make her believable. 


So a great start with a very weak ending. It made me realise how good older action/thriller writers like Michael Crichton and Matthew Reilly etc, are. Or maybe this genre reached its peak back in the 80's and 90's.