Book review: THE DEMON CROWN by James Rollins

ScienceThrillers.com book review of The Demon Crown by James Rollins (Sigma Force # 13)

(extraordinary; top 10-15% of SciThri)

Tech rating (out of 5):

Publication date: December 2017
Category: Science thriller

An intro from the author:

TO SAVE MANKIND’S FUTURE, SIGMA FORCE MUST MAKE A DEVIL’S BARGAIN…

Just in time to tuck under the Christmas tree, the latest Sigma Force adventure—THE DEMON CROWN—hits bookstores this week. As an added bonus, a good chunk of the story takes place in Hawaii, so it’s like getting a little island vacation to escape the winter blues—of course, it’s a “Sigma Vacation,” so don’t expect to get too much rest and relaxation. In fact, to quote my editor, this novel is the most frightening story I’ve ever written. What’s it about? To offer a few tantalizing clues, here are some of the questions that will be answered within the pages of THE DEMON CROWN:

—What truly killed the dinosaurs? (It’s not what you think.)
—What biological threat keeps Homeland Security up at night?
—Why did the man who founded the Smithsonian Institution—James Smithson—never set foot in America? And a century later, why did the inventor Alexander Graham Bell sneak off to Europe under a cloak of secrecy to steal the founder’s bones from an Italian graveyard?
—Finally, how close are we to discovering the secret of life after death? Or have we already discovered it?

And those are only a handful of the revelations you’ll find in the latest adventure. I hope you all enjoy the mayhem to come.

ScienceThrillers review:

Rollins’s editor was right. The Demon Crown, book #13 in his fantastic Sigma Force series, is indeed the most frightening Rollins book yet. Once again I had the privilege of reading an early copy and was dazzled by the author’s imagination. Rollins finds the most fascinating bits of real history and science, such as the ones he describes above, and weaves them into pulse-pounding stories of action and adventure with lovable characters of both sexes. Travel to exotic places is part of the deal. In Demon Crown, I particularly loved the scenes near Hana, Maui, Hawaii, an area I’m fond of. I was captivated by the history and geography he uses in Eastern Europe. And Rollins introduces a new character whom I simply loved–a plucky librarian, you could say.

On top of all that, the author adds real science. The Demon Crown is loaded with science gems in its themes. As usual, Rollins takes those gems and stretches them into speculative fiction, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

I’m posting the official book plot summary below for you, but really, all you need to know is this. If you are a science thriller fan who hasn’t read James Rollins yet, do it. Now. If you are a fan of James Rollins, order this book. Now. Then curl up and enjoy.

Support ScienceThrillers.com and the book’s author: Click to buy The Demon Crown from or amazon.com

Author’s website: https://jamesrollins.com/

If you like The Demon Crown, you might enjoy Reversion by Amy Rogers

Summary (from the publisher):

Off the coast of Brazil, a team of scientists discovers a horror like no other, an island where all life has been eradicated, consumed and possessed by a species beyond imagination. Before they can report their discovery, a mysterious agency attacks the group, killing them all, save one, an entomologist, an expert on venomous creatures, Professor Ken Matsui from Cornell University.

Strangest of all, this inexplicable threat traces back to a terrifying secret buried a century ago Continue reading

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Book review: DEAD ON ARRIVAL by Matt Richtel

ScienceThrillers.com book review of Dead on Arrival by Matt Richtel

BlueStar4

(excellent; top 30% of SciThri)

Tech rating (out of 5):

Publication date: August 2017
Category: Science thriller / Science fiction

Summary (from the publisher):

An airplane touches down at a desolate airport in a remote Colorado ski town. Shortly after landing, Dr. Lyle Martin, a world-class infectious disease specialist, is brusquely awakened to shocking news: Everyone not on the plane appears to be dead. The world has gone dark. While they were in the air, a lethal new kind of virus surfaced, threatening mankind’s survival, and now Martin—one of the most sought-after virologists on the planet until his career took a precipitous slide—is at the center of the investigation.

Moving at lightning pace from the snowbound Rockies to the secret campus of Google X, where unlimited budgets may be producing wonders beyond our capacity to control, Dead on Arrival is a brilliantly imaginative, intricately plotted thriller that draws on Matt Richtel’s years of science and technology reporting for the New York Times, and establishes him as one of the premier thriller writers working today.

ScienceThrillers review:

You cannot top the opening of Pulitzer prizewinning author Matt Richtel’s new techno-paranoid nightmare, DEAD ON ARRIVAL. For thriller setups, this is gold: A small commercial jet lands at a smallish commercial airport, at night, in the winter. Communications from the ground had ceased minutes before. The airport is dark. No one, nothing is moving or greets the plane. The creepiness and mystery play out for 150 pages, split into two sections by an interlude from three years earlier. Then something else entirely happens. The compulsion to find out what’s really going on guaranteed that I would keep reading.

Based on online reviews, readers are polarized by this book. Some love it, some hate it. I think part of the issue is expectations. Richtel sets up a stunning, action/plague thriller opening but the long middle of the book does not read like that kind of story. It’s more literary, cerebral. Richtel has a particular style of psychological writing, using subtext and asides to enhance the dialog. Not everyone will like it. But for those who do, it’s a home run. In addition, the protagonist, like others in Richtel’s books, is a flawed and at times unlikeable human being. For some readers, dislike for a main character directly transfers into dislike for the story.

I’m a fan of Richtel’s work and I like the way he plays with a book’s reality–always slippery, uncertain. Things you think are true may not always be what they appear. DEAD ON ARRIVAL targets themes that run through both his fiction and investigative journalism: an unease with the extremes to which technology is dragging us, a questioning of the assumptions of Silicon Valley. DEAD ON ARRIVAL is a scary story for our time.


An advance reader copy of this book was given to me by the publisher.

Support ScienceThrillers.com and the book’s author: Click to buy Dead on Arrival from amazon.com

Author’s website: mattrichtel.wordpress.com

Other books by Matt Richtel, reviewed by Sciencethrillers.com: The Doomsday Equation; A Deadly Wandering (nonfiction); The Cloud

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Ed Yong’s Microbiome book now videos!

My favorite popular science book of the year, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES by British science communicator Ed Yong (my review here), is now being adapted into a series of YouTube videos. This book is all about the microbiome–microorganisms that live in and on other life forms and are necessary for life in countless ways. Here’s the first, focusing on the role of gut microorganisms in termite digestion:

YouTube Preview Image

Yes, he did say, “intergenerational butt licking.”

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Release day GENOME by A.G. Riddle

A.G. Riddle is one of the world’s most successful independent authors. Riddle writes SciFi/SciThri, and today is release day for book 2 in his Extinction Files series. Read about GENOME below.


Genome by A.G. Riddle (2017; science thriller, series)

A code hidden in the human genome…
Will reveal the ultimate secret of human existence.
And could hold humanity’s only hope of survival.

* * *

In 2003, the first human genome was sequenced. But the secrets it held were never revealed.

The truth was discovered thirty years ago, almost by accident. Dr. Paul Kraus had spent his entire career searching for what he called humanity’s lost tribes–human ancestors who had gone extinct. When Kraus compared the DNA samples of the lost tribes with our own, he found a pattern of changes: a code. At the time, the technology didn’t exist to unravel what it meant. To protect the secret, Kraus hid his work and disappeared. Now the technology exists to finally understand the mysterious code buried in the human genome, but finding the pieces of Kraus’s research is more dangerous than anyone imagined.

Dr. Peyton Shaw and her mother have obtained part of Kraus’s research–and a cryptic message that could lead to the remaining pieces. They believe his work is the key to stopping a global conspiracy–and an event that will change humanity forever.

The ultimate secret, buried in the human genome, will change our very understanding of what it means to be human. For Peyton, finding it may come at an incredible price. She must weigh the lives of strangers against those she loves: Desmond Hughes and her mother. With time running out, Peyton makes a fateful choice–one that can never be undone.

Support the author and ScienceThrillers by clicking to buy Genome at amazon.com

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Guest post: Smallpox and a MacGyver chemist in thriller DEADLY SAVAGE

ScienceThrillers.com welcomes award-winning author and chemist Dave Edlund, whose latest Peter Savage thriller Deadly Savage invokes the great historic scourge of smallpox.


Deadly Savage by Dave Edlund. Action/ international political / bioterror thriller. (April 2016)

When militants invade the Belarusian State University in Minsk, Peter and his father are caught in the crossfire. Held hostage by gunmen who look suspiciously like Russian soldiers, Peter Savage uncovers a deadly plot to kill thousands of innocent civilians—and lay the blame at the feet of the United States government. In a desperate attempt to avoid a global war, Commander James Nicolaou and Peter are called to the front lines of the sinister campaign, and the stakes have never been higher.

Support ScienceThrillers.com and the author by ordering Deadly Savage at amazon.com


What if…smallpox?

Guest post by Dave Edlund

Deadly Savage is an action-political thriller with a large dose of science. The plot, which unfolds mostly in Minsk, Belarus, envisions an audacious plot to weaken NATO. The key is weaponized smallpox virus.

The history of smallpox is fascinating, albeit devilish at times (e.g., campaign of genocide against Native Americans). Until 1973, schoolchildren in the U.S. routinely received smallpox vaccinations. The last reported case of naturally occurring smallpox was in 1977, and on May 8, 1980, the World Health Organization proclaimed the virus to be eradicated globally. But during the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia developed highly contagious and lethal strains of smallpox, as well as the technology to weaponize the virus, in the lab.

To this day, viable samples of smallpox are kept at two locations—one is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and the other is the Vector Research Center in Koltsovo, Siberia. However, a shocking discovery on July 1, 2014, refutes this official position. Six glass vials dated to 1954 containing smallpox were discovered in a cardboard box in an unsecured FDA laboratory in Bethesda, Maryland, on the campus of the National Institutes of Health. Even after 60 years, the virus in two of the vials was still viable and capable of causing infection. How many other samples are out there, unaccounted for? And given that the Soviets were manufacturing 20 tons of weaponized virus annually in the mid-70s, how certain can anyone be that it was all destroyed? Troubling questions, given that our youngest generations have never been vaccinated against smallpox, and those who did receive vaccine in the 60s and 70s have a compromised measure of protection. Modern populations have never been more vulnerable to this terrifying weapon.

In Deadly Savage, the protagonist, Peter Savage, finds himself besieged by pro-Russian militia within a science building on the campus of the prestigious Belarussian State University. Peter is a chemist by education and he’s an inventor, quite comfortable tinkering with a variety of hardware. In short order, he makes his way to the chemistry storeroom where he assembles some offensive weapons—but perhaps not what you’re imagining. I stayed away from explosives (too obvious) for a few reasons, not the least of which are time and reliability. As a chemist myself, I know that making effective explosives takes time—something my main character doesn’t have.

Eventually, Peter finds an aerosol device for dispersing the virus, and he is challenged to arrive at a method of rendering it inoperative. Again, the most obvious methods must be avoided since the case is thought to be booby-trapped—it cannot be touched, moved, incinerated, or blown up. He draws on his knowledge of physics and his manual assembly skills as an inventor to derive an ingenious solution.

But who is making these aerosol-dispersion machines to spread smallpox virus? Hard data is required. Once again, the campus science building provides a necessary tool in the form of an electron microscope. A rigorous analysis of trace particles from a deactivated aerosol machine—mostly dust and pollen—provides invaluable clues. With this fingerprint, the U.S. government is ready to present their case to the United Nations. However, condemnation is not sufficient to ensure the deadly virus will never be used again.

But what is? The answer may be more terrifying than the virus.

Deadly Savage is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. You will find links to purchase, reviews, and sample chapters here www.PeterSavageNovels.com


About the Author Dave Edlund:

A member of the International Thriller Writers, Dave Edlund writes action-political thrillers often compared to the Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler, the Sigma Series novels by James Rollins, and the Jack Ryan novels by Tom Clancy. His current release, “Hunting Savage”, is “…required reading for any thriller aficionado”, Steve Berry, author of “The 14th Colony”, New York Times and #1 International bestselling author.

Edlund’s award-winning debut, “Crossing Savage”, was followed by “Relentless Savage” and the critically acclaimed “Deadly Savage”. He lives with his family and four dogs in Central Oregon. A graduate of the University of Oregon (Ph.D. in chemistry), he has dedicated his professional career to developing new technology to support the hydrogen economy. “I strive to bring cutting-edge science and technology into my stories, and then to extrapolate that innovation beyond what is presently known, but is plausible,” Edlund explains. An avid outdoorsman, you are likely to find the author in the deep woods far away from other people when he is not writing. To connect with Dave Edlund or to request a Skype visit, contact him at dedlund@lightmessages.com

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Guest post: Evil + science makes good stories by Jenifer Ruff

ScienceThrillers.com welcomes author Jenifer Ruff, a science thriller writer who uses her epidemiology credentials to create a ripped-from-the-headlines bioterror novel called Only Wrong Once.


Only Wrong Once by Jenifer Ruff. Science / bioterror thriller. (September 2017)

A sinister experiment outside Aleppo.

Two mysterious deaths: one in LA, one in Boston, each with the same horrific symptoms.

A powerful ISIS leader chooses an American-born microbiologist from the University of Damascus and manipulates him into doing the unthinkable: weaponize a deadly virus and recruit American citizens to disperse the disease.

In Charlotte, a lonely banker desperate for a more meaningful life receives increasingly urgent requests of Come Visit from his cousin in Syria. After losing his job and traveling overseas, will he become a willing participant in the inevitable terrorist plot?

In Los Angeles, FBI counterterrorism agent Quinn Traynor and his team receive a call from CDC agent, Madeline Hamilton. She’s discovered the first victim of a lethal, unfamiliar virus. Their joint investigation uncovers evidence of the imminent bio-terror attack and their only hope is to identify the terrorists carrying the disease. With just two days remaining before it’s too late, the FBI and the CDC race to prevent a pandemic. The ensuing nightmare will hit closer to home than they ever anticipated and one of them will pay an unimaginable price for protecting the country.

From secret jihadist bunkers in Syria to the city streets of Los Angeles, Boston, and Charlotte, Only Wrong Once is a chilling, internationally relevant suspense novel that will leave you reeling from the too-real prospect of a global terrorism nightmare.

Support ScienceThrillers.com and the author by ordering Only Wrong Once at amazon.com


Twisted science innovation makes for thrilling fiction

Guest post by Jenifer Ruff

For most of us, the allure of science is not in the realistic daily grind of repeated experiments and the tiny increments of learning that occur after countless hours in a lab. The attraction is in the ground-breaking innovations that change lives and essentially allow us to better control our environment. A riveting science-based novel incorporates elements of scientific foundations, but includes a fantastic yet feasible leap of knowledge. The thrillers that have kept me on the edge of my seat have taken that leap of innovation and placed it in the hands of dark and twisted minds. The suspense occurs with the threat of impending chaos, a result of sinister motivations. Is it inevitable? Can it be stopped? The excitement comes with an extreme juxtaposition to the socially acceptable uses of science and medicine. But I don’t feel guilty, it’s fun to be nervous and wary within the context of reading fiction.

In Only Wrong Once, my newest novel, a virologist is recruited and brainwashed by ISIS to weaponize a hemorrhagic fever by crossing its molecular structure with the common cold virus. Once the CDC and FBI discover the first victim, the race is on to prevent a pandemic.  In hindsight, the concept was sparked years ago, when I was a graduate student in Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale Medical School. One of the top floors of the building held a secure and restricted room for advanced research. The lab inside was rumored to hold the most dangerous of diseases, including bubonic plague, polio, and hemorrhagic fevers. I remember people actually whispering out of reverence when talking about it. Studying those samples required extreme precautions, including personal protective gear. My work never took me inside that room, but just knowing those samples existed, supposedly, so close to our day-to-day classrooms, always struck me as wildly disturbing and fascinating. The ominous possibilities . . .

In my novels Everett and Rothaker, a tenacious and dedicated medical student is also a psychopath who repeatedly takes her passion for scientific exploration to the dark side. Her scientific “exploits” and her justification for them are as fascinating as they are horrific.

Sometimes I question why I repeatedly come up with dark and disturbing uses of science and medicine, but then I remember that millions of readers enjoy the edgy thrill ride that comes with contemplating the unthinkable.


About the Author Jenifer Ruff:

I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts, a charming college-town, and earned science degrees from Mount Holyoke College and Yale University.   As the daughter of a library director, I’ve been devouring stacks of books since before I could walk. On my own, I always go for thrillers and mysteries, but as a result of two book clubs and recommendations from friends, I enjoy books from every genre.  I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, with my husband, three sons, and our greyhounds.

Author’s website: jenruff.com

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Don’t mess with bird flu: THE HAN AGENT by Amy Rogers

I am pleased to announce the release of my third science thriller novel, The Han Agent. The book has gotten some rave reviews from early readers, and I’m so excited to share this book with you, the ScienceThrillers.com audience, for whom it was written. Please buy the book or request it from your local library this week. Let’s get a story with real science into the bestseller lists!




The Han Agent by Amy Rogers. Science thriller (September 5, 2017)

In the 1930s, Japanese scientists committed heinous crimes in their quest for the ultimate biological weapon.
The war ended. Their mission did not.

Eighty years later, Japanese-American scientist Amika Nakamura won’t let rules stand between her and scientific glory. When the ambitious young virologist defies a ban on the genetic manipulation of influenza, she’s expelled from the university. Desperate to save her career, she accepts a position with a pharmaceutical company in Tokyo. Soon after, a visit to a disputed island entangles her in a high-profile geopolitical struggle between Japan and China. Applying her singular expertise with bird flu in a risky experiment may be the only way out. Little does she know that Japanese ultranationalists and a legacy of unpunished war crimes lurk in the shadows, manipulating people, politics, and science.

But DNA doesn’t lie. Amika uncovers a shocking truth: a deadly virus is about to put the “gene” in genocide.

Advance praise for The Han Agent by Amy Rogers, founder of ScienceThrillers.com

“…as exciting as it is frighteningly realistic. It could be tomorrow’s headline.”—James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Sobering, suspenseful, and absolutely chilling.”—Barry Lancet, award-winning author of Japantown and Tokyo Kill

The Han Agent is a surefire genre hit, fast-paced and full of elements of mystery and adventure.”Foreword Reviews magazine

“This pressure cooker of a thriller portrays with chilling realism how individuals can use specialized scientific knowledge for good or evil.”—J.E. Fishman, bestselling author of Primacy and the Bomb Squad NYC series
Click here for links to all other retailers.
Click here for bulk purchases from publisher.

For more information about the book, visit publisher’s site

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Book buzz: THE SCIENCE OF COOKING, a DK Publication

ScienceThrillers.com book review of The Science of Cooking written by Dr. Stuart Farrimond and published by DK Books.

Publication date: September 19, 2017
Category: cookbook / how-to / science trivia

Summary (from the publisher):

Get answers to all your cooking science questions, and cook tastier, more nutritious food using fundamental principles, practical advice, and step-by-step techniques.

Where does the heat come from in a chili pepper? Why is wild salmon darker than farmed? Does searing meat really “seal in” the juices? A good recipe goes a long way, but if you can master the science behind it, you’ll be one step ahead.

Using full-color images, stats and facts through infographics, and an engaging Q&A format to show you how to perfect your cooking, The Science of Cooking brings food science out of the lab and into your kitchen. Topics include meat and poultry, seafood, dairy, pulses and grains, fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, baked goods, and more, making it perfect for perfecting everyday cooking as well as for special meals.

ScienceThrillers review:

I love science. I love food. And even if I don’t “love” to cook, I cook a lot, and I love to do it well. So call me the ideal audience for Dorling Kindersley (DK) Publishing’s new book The Science of Cooking: Every question answered to give you the edge, written by British sci-comm polymath Dr. Stuart Farrimond.

I’ve been a fan of DK Books since my kids were young, when every trip to the public library sent us home with at least one of this British publisher’s beautiful, content-rich books. You want to flip through a DK book, with the gorgeous photographic page layouts. Content is secondary to the images, delivered in small nibbles rather than lengthy passages. These are not textbooks.

Farrimond’s Science of Cooking fits this mold, though with more text than many of DK’s children’s books. This food book is a feast for the eyes. Food photography, infographics, and diagrams are a delight to look at. I read an ebook version and desperately wished I was holding the print copy. Page designs are varied and often span a full spread across the spine of the book. Content is structured by food category. There are chapters on kitchen tools; meat/poultry; fish/seafood; eggs/dairy; rice/grains/pasta; vegetables/fruits/nuts/seeds; herbs/spices/oils/flavorings; baking/sweet things.

Information is largely conveyed as answers to interesting questions and “culinary conundrums, drawing on the latest research to give meaningful and practical answers.” In other words, you won’t find recipes per se in this book, but you’ll find useful information with mildly scientific explanations as rationale. (If you want serious biochemistry, look elsewhere.) Call it applied trivia. “Does adding salt to water make vegetables cook faster?” “How do I cook fish to have crispy skin?” “Why exactly is quinoa so special?” (I’m totally going to try this: “Quinoa can be popped like popcorn if you dry roast it, turning it into a crunchy topping for soups and breakfast cereals.”) Did you know that leaving mushrooms in the sun increases their content of vitamin D?

I enjoyed reading this book cover-to-cover and it prompted me to make a couple of concrete changes in my cooking (for example, I bought peanut oil for high-heat stirfry, something I did not use previously). By itself, the section on eggs is worth buying the book.

Any review of a book called The Science of Cooking should make at least some comparison to the gold standard in this category, Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. While both of these books cover the same subject area, they do not compete with each other. McGee’s book is a 900-page tome with an occasional black-and-white illustration and encyclopedic coverage. (McGee has two pages of text just on unheated preparations of fish. You won’t find kinilaw in the DK book.) Farrimond’s version is more fun, more digestible, more applied, and of course more photogenic. My only complaint in comparison is that Farrimond’s book targets a general audience and often simplifies the actual science in its explanations. McGee is less afraid of alienating the non-technical reader.

The only problem with The Science of Cooking is niche. It’s really a cross-genre book that doesn’t fit cleanly into any one bookstore shelf category. It’s a science book, but not hard science or narrative nonfiction. It’s a cookbook, but doesn’t have traditional recipes. It’s a tome of beautiful photography, but lacks the heft of a coffee table book. Personally I’d file it under how-to: Science of Cooking is practical and illustrative.

DK’s The Science of Cooking by Dr. Stuart Farrimond is a visually appealing food book that answers practical questions with a scientific rationale for why cooks should do what they do. Home chefs are guaranteed to find at least one useful gem that they can apply to their everyday shopping and food preparation. A lovely gift for the amateur cook with a scientific bent. –ScienceThrillers.com


About the Author:

Dr. Stuart Farrimond is a science and medical writer, presenter and educator. As a trained medical doctor and qualified teacher, he passionately communicates science and health sciences; seeking to inspire and engage others about these topics which are all too easily seen as stuffy and irrelevant. Learn more about his many sci-comm activities at StuartFarrimond.com.


Thank you Netgalley and publisher for providing free advance e-copy of this book for possible review.

Support ScienceThrillers.com and the book’s author: Click to buy The Science of Cooking from amazon.com

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