Book review: Spiral by Paul McEuen

Science doesn’t have to be boring.

Friday, 6th May 2011, 7:00 am

And it certainly takes on a more interesting complexion when it is placed in the capable hands of real-life physics professor Paul McEuen of Cornell University in America.

Not content with being an award-winning expert on nanotechnology, McEuen decided that we all need ‘more stories that show us how to cope with the benefits and perils’ of science and technology.

Thus Spiral, his thrilling and incredibly fast-paced debut novel, was born and it contains some potentially scary science featuring a deadly secret, a biological super-weapon and a world on the verge of extinction.

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Throw in thousands of fatal fungi, tiny, scalpel-footed robots and a ghastly plague, and the stage is set for a story whose film rights have already been snapped up the producers of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Spiral opens in the Pacific in 1946 where Liam Connor of the British Army, a global expert on germ warfare, is sent to help the US Navy foil an attempt by a Japanese submarine to unleash the world’s first biological super-weapon.

Code-name for the Japanese operation is Uzumaki, which is translated as Spiral. The devastating decision is made to annihilate Spiral by releasing the world’s fourth atomic bomb, obliterating the weapon before it can release its catastrophic payload.

Sixty-four years later Connor is comfortably ensconced at Cornell, now a world-renowned Nobel prize-winner working at the cutting edge of nano-science technology and praying that the spectre of Spiral will never return.

But now it’s back and the stakes are exponentially higher. Spiral would be virtually unstoppable with current technological advances and only Connor holds the key to its cure.

Those who seek Spiral will stop at nothing to obtain Connor’s knowledge, even if it means his death and that of everyone he holds dear.

Only one man has the knowledge and the know-how to halt a Doomsday scenario...Jake Sterling, Cornell’s physics professor, must find a way to prevent tiny nanobots and fungi being brought together to harness the most devastating terrorist attack in human history.

It’s a race against time to save the world.

Spiral is a gripping sci-fi adventure with a plot that doesn’t stretch credibility too far and a tiny spark of romance to help keep the story simmering.

A clever and classy techno tale.

(Headline, paperback, £12.99)