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Scientific Thrillers

Review: The Aeschylus by David Barclay

  • “What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” ― Werner Herzog

    I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents…. The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? – John Steinbeck, East of Eden, 1952

    “Man is the cruelest animal.”–― Friedrich Nietzsche

    It began in Stockholm, Sweden in 1938. Pearl Buck won the Nobel for Literature, on the same stage where Enrico Fermi received the Nobel for Physics for his work on the artificial radioactivity produced by neutrons, and for nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons. And outside the stage door, Max Feldt and his wife, Ada, are about to be murdered by Nazi Gestapo agents for the location of a single man. Dominik Kaminski.

    This is the beginning. But it is not the end.

    In the present, Kate McCreedy just lost her father – who happened to be the Vice President of the United States. Her father the VP, her brother the high powered Security Analyst who couldn’t even find time to make it to his father’s funeral – and Kate the secretary. Well, an administrative assistant, but she did just get a promotion to media relations executive – for Valley Oil, one of the four largest oil companies in the world. Her brother got the lion’s share of their father’s estate. The condo on Independence Avenue and summer home in Connecticut. The yacht and various other rich man’s toys. Kate? The deed to her father’s Mercedes. The family china and a few nick-knacks. She doesn’t really care, she is happy with her life. But this too will change – with far reaching and deadly effect. For when she is called to her godfather Godfried’s home she learns two shocking facts. First, her father left her, privately and with no fanfare, all off his stock in VO – stock with a ‘bit’ over $32 million dollars in value. She is now the biggest oil shareholder in the country. Second? There is a problem at the Aeschylus Platform, the two-point-two billion dollar engineering marvel deep in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Communications are down. The platform is damaged. It is a disaster – and there are no answers.

    The company is sending in Black Shadow – the second largest mercenary group in the U.S., with orders to find out what happened to the platform, and to the two hundred and thirty-eight missing workers. Someone from media relations has to be onsite, to record what happened for the board, as well as helping restrain the fiscal panic inherent in any disaster of this magnitude. Kate won’t put anyone else in danger – especially when her godfather presents her with photos of the disaster, and indicates that her father knew before his death something was wrong, and wanted her to handle the issue herself. She can’t let her father down, can she?

    What starts out as an information gathering and rescue mission soon becomes more, much more, as the story moves back and forth through time – from the kidnapping of Dominik and his family by Gestapo agents and their enslavement on a tiny island in the South Atlantic, to the modern day as Kate, nine members of a Black Shadow team, with Mason Brubaker, ex-military and now full time killer consultant/troubleshooter-for-hire in the lead. AJ Trenton, Security Chief on the build for Aeschylus, disgraced and fired from the project for questioning the higher-ups about possible problems that the company was ignoring, but still the most knowledgeable of VO’s personnel, and his buddy Dutch who AJ won’t travel without round out the group.

    Get in. Save the personnel. Get out. Or at least that is what Kate plans. But Robert Burns said it best: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” And gang aft a-gley, in this case, is an understatement. For what they find on their arrival is more terrifying, stranger and more deadly, than anyone, even the members of a hard-ass private military corporation like Black Shadow, have ever faced. For the platform isn’t just damaged – it is overrun. Overrun by what can only be described as black tentacles growing up from the ocean floor, covering and infesting everything it touches. And when the members of the group are attacked, they find that it is not only the platform that is infested.

    The Aeschylus is a fast paced novel of the lengths beings – whether corporation or government – or even a single man – will go to control the unknown in a single-minded pursuit of glory, power and money – and a brutally practical look at politics and corporate manipulation on a massive scale. It is also something much more – a warning, a threat, about the things we do to hide the most horrific of atrocities. And finally, it is about the things that are hidden still, the dark places and things of the world, and about the folly of human hubris.

    Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; fathers and sons, martyred heroes, star-crossed lovers, the deaths of kings – stories that taught us the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. – Tom Hiddleston

    Eighty years ago, the Nazi’s absolute certainty that they could manipulate everything within their purview, turn it to the glory of Germany, of Hitler and the Nazi party, opened a door. A door that remained open, though its denizen slept. Now, it is awake. And the world will never be the same.

    There are many things to admire about David Barclay’s novel. It is powerful on many levels, from the twisted brutalities of people who would, without the pressure of the Nazi regime, have been perfectly ordinary human beings to the cold, calculating viciousness of those who are willing to do whatever is asked simply for the money. Do it and move on, never to think about it again. Political intrigue and corporate rapaciousness are handled with a deft hand, but the thriller aspects kept me turning pages nearly faster than I could read, to find out what happened next. Scientifically and historically, Barclay also did his homework, making a fiction work blend seamlessly into historical happenings with both a scientific and science fiction bent that speaks to the devastation of the Earth by the unlearned and unwary. I recommend it.

    I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Review: The Janus Effect by Jan Coffey – Brilliant!

janus
Click to order from Amazon. You won’t be sorry you did.

Having endorsed the covert policy of supporting a Kurdish revolt in northern Iraq between 1974 and 1975, with ‘deniable’ assistance also provided by Israel and the Shah of Iran, Kissinger made it plain to his subordinates that the Kurds were not to be allowed to win, but were to be employed for their nuisance value alone. They were not to be told that this was the case, but soon found out when the Shah and Saddam Hussein composed their differences, and American aid to Kurdistan was cut off. Hardened CIA hands went to Kissinger … for an aid programme for the many thousands of Kurdish refugees who were thus abruptly created…. The apercu of the day was: ‘foreign policy should not he confused with missionary work.’ Saddam Hussein heartily concurred. – Christopher Hitchens

They’d lived in a country that was run by a butcher. That did not make them butchers. In fact, they were just the opposite. – Jan Coffey, The Janus Effect

 The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost. – M. Scott Peck

Halabja-Iran-2
No one was exempt from the slaughter as nerve gas, biological and chemical weapons slaughtered even the youngest amongst the population.

In 1988, with the full might of the US Government and the force of the Regan White House behind him, Saddam Hussain facilitated what was known as “The Anfal Campaign.” Named for the eighth sura, or chapter, of the Qur’an, Saddam’s Anfal was a mammoth campaign of civic annihilation, displacement and mass killing. Saddam tapped his cousin, Ali Hassan al–Majid, a man well–known for his brutality, to take charge of northern Iraq. Al–Majid quickly deployed military resources to, in his words, “solve the Kurdish problem and slaughter the saboteurs.” He ordered Iraqi aircraft to drop poison gas on PUK and KDP targets and civilian villages, killing thousands indiscriminately. The Iraqi regime had become the first in history to attack its own civilian population with chemical weapons. Al–Majid came to be known as “Chemical Ali.”

nowarning
No warning. No pity.

There were eight Anfal attacks in all, each following a similar pattern. First, air attacks dropped chemical weapons on both civilian and peshmerga targets. Next, ground troops surrounded the villages, looting and setting fire to homes. Then townspeople were herded into army trucks and taken to holding facilities, the largest being Topzawa, an army camp near Kirkuk. At these camps, men and boys deemed old enough to carry a weapon were separated from women, the elderly and young children. Routinely and uniformly, these men and boys were taken to remote sites, executed in groups, and dumped into pre–dug mass graves. Many women and children were also executed, especially those from areas that supported the Kurdish resistance. – Dave Johns, The Crimes of Saddam Hussein, 1988: The Anfal Campaign

 When the dust, chemicals, and biological weapons had settled, 90 percent of Kurdish villages had essentially been wiped off the map, and the countryside was strewn with mass graves, and with land mines to discourage resettlement. The response from the international community was muted, as many nations, including the United States, had supported Hussein with money and arms during the Iran–Iraq war.

halabja_tragedy
They fell where they stood – women, children, men, pets. Those who didn’t die right away are still suffering the effects of the poisonings. . .

 

“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.”― Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy

One of the worst of these attacks was against the city of Halabja, a peaceful, working class Kurdish city. Al-Majid ordered the destruction of the city with chemical and biological weapons, including mustard gas, nerve gasses such as sarin, VX and hydrogen cyanide, and a new, unidentified gas “that made people crazy (they tore off their clothes, laughed for a while and then dropped dead). Around 8000 died immediately. Overall, hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Kurdistan were slaughtered, without pity. And yet, what do we, the American People, know of the atrocities committed by our government in our insane quest for cheap oil?

massgrave
One of hundreds of mass graves that have been uncovered, with others still unfound.

 

Out of this wasteland of indiscriminate death and destruction begins The Janus Effect, one of the strongest novels I have ever read. Utilizing strong research, close ties with the people of Kurdistan, and a depth of personal compassion that is unmatched, Nikoo & Jim McGoldrick, writing as Jan Coffey, have written a novel that deserves to be on every person’s reading list. And yes, you really should read it, not just let it sit there and look pretty on the shelf. This is an amazing and horrifying story that will send chills up your back, and make you think, long and hard, about the meaning and reality of true evil.

In the middle of nowhere Maine, something has happened. Something horrific; unbelievable; and frightening beyond words. Two families have arrived on a small coastal island for a summer vacation. Within a matter of hours, they are all dead and rotting with unimaginable speed. Soon, those that find the bodies are also dead. Ten fatalities, within hours rotted beyond recognition. Only one aspect is possibly familiar. A strand of bacteria found in a bombed out lab in Iraq in 1988 shows many of the same constituents of this new, deadly killer. And to learn about that bacteria, what it is, and how it is developed, Austyn Newman is traveling to Afghanistan, to the infamous Brickyard Prison, there to question the one person who may have answers – the scientist who developed the bacteria in Sadaam’s laboratories. Traded between various “black” prisons for the past five years, Dr. Rahaf Banaz has been lost in a system of total isolation, a ghost, with no record, no rights, and having never been charged with, or convicted of, a crime. Questioned, tortured, and finally left to rot, Newman finds his quarry in a hole in the Brickyard, cramped into a cell so small she cannot even stand. Starved, shaved bald, and with only a filthy blanket, she is, indeed, a ghost of a human being. And she is, he believes upon meeting her, something else as well. She may not even be Dr. Banaz.

As the story unfolds, Newman and Dr. Banaz, Dr. Fahimah Banaz, Rahaf’s sister who has taken Rahaf’s place in prison in order to allow Rahaf to continue her medical relief work, travel from the Brickyard at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan through the ruins of cities and the beauty of the stark mountain landscape to the city of Kermanshah, Iran, in search of Rahaf, in search of answers. And during their travels, we learn too of the atrocities of sadistic politicians, both Eastern and Western, the horrors of the victims of war, and the lengths humans will go to in order to destroy one another for power, money and glory. And also? Also, the lengths that humans will go to in order to save and protect those they love. And even those they do not know.

This is a powerful story. Thriller, suspense, medical thriller, history, it’s all there, wrapped up in a story to break any thinking person’s heart. Lies and deception; truth and brutal honesty; and above all the agony of a people forgotten, written off by a culture that cares not for those who are crushed under the weight of a brutal, sadistic war machine. With heartbreaking twists at the end, this story written from the outlook of someone who loves the country and its people should be honored for both it’s excellence and heart.

“Lies and secrets, Tessa, they are like a cancer in the soul. They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.” ― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

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“There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.” – Dwight David Eisenhower

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I received this book from StoryCartel.com in return for a realistic review. I highly recommend that you read it. I got a nice note from the authors, it was indeed a proof copy I received. It has been professionally edited.

 

Eyes of the Many – Free Today on Amazon!

eyes of the many
You MUST read this stunning novel of intrigue.
Click for your FREE copy from Amazon!

Dr. Frankenstein: I’ve been cursed for delving into the mysteries of life!

Dr. Pretorius: Sometimes I have wondered whether life wouldn’t be much more amusing if we were all devils, no nonsense about angels and being good. – The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Kelly Graham is one of those unusual authors – those who can make you think, while not even realizing it.

Eyes of the Many is in most ways an evocative thriller. The story of a man, a police officer in Los Angeles who, after losing his wife in an inexplicable accident, spirals into the wasteland of his mind, longing for answers, and for the wife he has lost.

Four years later, now an investigator for a private firm, Trayton Benett is a lost man. He has given up his friends, and lives from day-to-day, just paying the bills. And then, something remarkable happens. His wife isn’t back – but is she possibly still alive?

What follows is a thrilling book blending thriller, mystery and suspense with an undercurrent of science which will open your mind and leave you thinking deep into the night.

Bad Leiah wants to tell you all about it, and what I felt about the scientific bent to the story, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Rather, I will simply encourage you, very strongly to read the book.

Highly Recommended!

Review: Secrets of a Mayan Moon – Paty Jager

secrets of a mayan moon
Click cover to go to Good Reads page.

I love books that utilize archeology as the basis for their story line. The history, the intelligence, the people. It is all captivating. Even more so when a book, though it may be fiction, is based upon good, solid scientific knowledge.

Paty Jager has put in the study, with Secrets of a Mayan Moon, that is required to make a spectacular modern archeological novel. Set in the jungles of Guatemala, Jager weaves Mayan history with the modern problems of drug runners and the looting of historical sites for profit.

Isabella Mumphrey is a genius. She has worked harder than anyone else in her field, battered by others jealous of her brilliance and dedication to her studies of Mayan history. Desperate for funding for her studies, due to be cut from her university, she jumps at the chance to take her first field trip out of the country, and save her work. Lured to Guatemala by her mentor and old family friend, she travels far into the jungle with a guide, supposedly sent by her mentor. Little does she know, things are not as they seem. Not only is the jungle dark and deep, but also the truth of her ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ is darker than she could have ever imagined.

There is a realistic tone to the book, with just a bit of mysticism and a thread of romance. Neither the mysticism nor the romance was overdone, which I appreciated.  Too many novels seem to lean heavily on the romance bits to cover for a lack of writing skills. With this first Isabella Mumphrey book, I am happy to say that this was not the case. The point was the story, and a grand adventure it was. There are multiple layers to Secrets of a Mayan Moon. The archeology, of course, as well as the drugs, the looting, and the mystery of why Isabella is truly there. But there is also the truth of who Isabella, herself, really is. IS she who she has always thought? And why have her parents never loved her? All in all, a very well developed and enjoyable book. I had never read any of Paty Jager’s work before, so this book was quite an enjoyable surprise. You may see her other works at GoodReads. Ms. Jager writes a great deal of “Petticoat Western” style romance books, so if that is your thing, I would recommend those to you also. That genre isn’t to my taste, and makes me wonder why Ms. Jager decided to write these books on archeological adventure – but I am certainly glad that she did!

secrets of an aztec temple
Click cover to go to Good Reads page.

I received this book for review, but have already bought the next book, Secrets of an Aztec Temple. I greatly look forward to reading it.

Highly recommended!

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