I’d like to welcome thriller fan and writer Randy Sekeres as the first ScienceThrillers.com guest reviewer. I met Randy at ThrillerFest 2011 (site of the first annual Thriller Geek Meet) and discovered that we share a passion for page-turning tales with science in them. Randy has generously offered to share an occasional book review here at ScienceThrillers, particularly books that don’t qualify 100% as “science thrillers” but have elements that will appeal to SciThri fans.
Hell’s Corner by David Baldacci (political/spy/terrorism thriller with techno elements; Camel Club series, Book #5)
On the night of the British Prime Minister’s state visit at the White House, a bomb built from startling new technology detonates across the street in Lafayette Park. The trained eye of long time park squatter and former top government assassin, Oliver Stone, notices suspicious activities just before he and several other bystanders nearly get killed in the blast.
How did a powerful explosive get smuggled into one of the most secure patches of land in the world? Why has no credible terrorist group claimed responsibility or made subsequent demands? And was the British PM even a target, or are more sinister developments afoot? A determined Oliver Stone teams with his loose coalition of eccentric and multi-talented allies, called the “Camel Club,” to fight friend and foe alike before terror on a previously unimaginable level devastates the nation’s capitol and eviscerates homeland security for years to come, if not forever.
David Baldacci’s prophetic tale of high-tech terrorism delivers a compelling blend of cutting-edge science, old-fashioned ingenuity, and game-changing terror while the future of the world’s most powerful nation hangs in the balance.
Of particular interest to science buffs is the nature of the bomb. Without giving too much away, it incorporates nano-technology in such a way as to bypass current bomb detection techniques. That’s right – terrorists can, and do in this thriller, transport highly lethal explosives past all known detection technologies. To accomplish this, Baldacci makes use of a certain quality of molecular biology that may border on artistic license. But even so, the nano-threat seems imminently plausible, thus opening up a huge can of worms for national defense. There’s no easy answer, and Baldacci’s introduction of this weapons-grade technology means Stone must draw upon a mix of skills both old and new to have any chance of thwarting disaster.
To enhance the fear factor, Baldacci weaves in cold war espionage, political shenanigans, and deeply polarizing grudges into his tapestry of terror. Stone must work both inside and outside the very government he’s trying to help. And his path is not without pitfalls, bumps and bruises, and death. There’s plenty of grief to go around; people are not who they seem to be; and winning often feels like losing.
Overall, Baldacci again offers up his classic man-on-the-outside Oliver Stone tale. In this go ’round, the stakes couldn’t be higher, and the mix of international treachery mixed with a scientifically-derived security nightmare, heighten the drama. The lesson is simple; we can never rest. The forces of evil coupled with the relentless march of technology mean the line between safety and catastrophe is constantly shifting. We must stay vigilant, never run from our fears, and always be ready to think outside the box in order to triumph over our adversaries. Solid points all, and when exemplified by a man like Oliver Stone, worth reading.
Randy Sekeres is a freelance consultant and writer who is active in several philosophical, scientific, and critical-inquiry organizations. Originally from the Midwest, Randy currently lives and works in the Atlanta area. He graduated with honors from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Behavioral Science and holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati. When not reading science thrillers, Randy’s interests include boating, traveling, and seeking truth in all things.