Guest post: George Church likes my book…Lior Samson welcomes author Larry Constantine, who got my attention with the blurb from legendary DNA scientist George Church for his upcoming new release The Intaglio Imprint. The book delves into bioethics and reproductive cloning. Constantine writes under the pen name Lior Samson and has created (to date) ten science-tinged thrillers. It’s about time we got him here for a guest post!

The Intaglio Imprint by Lior Samson. Science thriller (September 1, 2017)

Dan Bradman, a reporter with a leading European financial newspaper, is trying to uncover the complicated truth about the estate of Arturo Dermott, a recluse and one of the world’s richest, most prolific inventors. A handwritten note found in an archive in Rome turns a routine assignment into a convoluted quest. He and Italian archivist Francesca Zingari are launched on a dangerous detour that leads to unlikely informants in Valencia, to secret labs in China, and to a young man growing up in Boston who struggles to understand and come to terms with an invisible past that sets him apart. He is not who he thinks he is, but neither is he the person those around him think he is.

Support and the author by pre-ordering The Intaglio Imprint at

“If Geneticist George Church Likes Your Book…”

Guest post by author Larry Constantine

Getting the science right is a goal of any worthy writer, but it is not always easy, especially when background research takes you far afield or to the edges of current scientific capabilities. Under my pen name Lior Samson, I write provocative page-turners that I hope leave readers pondering what they have read. To get the details right, I draw on subject-matter experts to review manuscripts.

If genetic engineering and cloning are pivotal to your story line, it would be hard to find a better subject-matter expert than Harvard geneticist George Church. A contributor to the development of the CRISPR-cas9 gene editing technique that has revolutionized genetic manipulation, Church is a science superstar who keeps popping up in mainstream media. Among projects his lab is pursuing is developing a line of cloned “humanized” pigs whose organs could be harvested and transplanted to people without triggering a destructive immune response. He is also collaborating in “de-extinction” research to bring back the wooly mammoth.

I met Church at a panel discussion on the ethics and morality of human genetic engineering. We started a dialogue, and he offered to read and give feedback on the new Lior Samson thriller, The Intaglio Imprint. He loved it and wrote the following cover blurb.

My perch provides a unique view to attest to the super-realism and compelling rationale of this ethically probing tale, … which resonates with my experience as member of a team producing pig clones to save lives via transplantation. … [The title] could not be a more powerful and apt metaphor — when a strand of DNA is copied you get a complementary molecule, not a copy. I recommend … this intricate and incisive creation.

The Intaglio Imprint is a multilayered story—part science fiction, part suspense—a story of love, loss, and legacy that takes a penetrating plunge into the ethical complexities of modern genetic science. It begins with an accidental discovery by a financial reporter trying to sort out the complicated truth about the estate of a reclusive—and very rich—inventor. He and a companion are launched on a dangerous detour that leads to unlikely informants in Valencia, to secret labs in China and South Korea, and to a young man growing up in Boston who struggles to understand and come to terms with who he is and what sets him apart from his peers.

The endorsement by Church reassured me that the science and the story are a good fit. The science of genetic engineering and reproductive cloning has come a long way since the birth of Dolly the sheep in 1996, the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell, but the basic techniques are still much the same. Genetic material is extracted from an adult cell, either an adult somatic cell or one with induced pluripotency, the ability to give rise to a full variety of tissue types. This genetic material is inserted into an egg from which the original genetic material has been removed. This egg is then tricked into thinking it has been fertilized so that it begins to divide into a multi-celled blastocyst. The blastocyst is implanted into the uterus of a surrogate, where, if all goes well, it grows into a fetus and eventually into a viable new organism..

That’s the idea. In reality, the process is not yet fully understood nor fully reproducible, and many of the embryos fail to develop properly. Out of the 277 fertilized eggs and 29 implanted embryos in that first research, only Dolly survived to adulthood. Many cloned embryos turn out to have defects of one kind or another that result in spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, or early death. The yield has been improved in some cases, but the results are still far from perfect. And that may be the biggest technical barrier to human cloning.

Research on human reproductive cloning itself is not actually permitted anywhere in the world today. Still, every step forward in cloning other mammals—whether sheep, dogs, or pigs—or in therapeutic cloning to create human cell cultures and organs for transplant, is a potential advance toward human cloning. From the science we know, there do not appear to be fundamental biological barriers to human reproductive cloning, but deeper questions remain: Should such research ever be undertaken? At what price and with what consequences?

About the Author:

Larry Constantine is an award-winning journalist and author who writes fiction under his pen name, Lior Samson. His tenth novel, The Intaglio Imprint, to be released in September 2017, is available for pre-order on Amazon. His previous books include a double-novel about radical life-extension, The Rosen Singularity – The Millicent Factor, and the six science-and-technology infused novels of The Homeland Connection: Bashert, The Dome, Web Games, Chipset, Gasline, and Flight Track. He can be contacted at

Author page (amazon)

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Book buzz: THE SINKING OF THE ANGIE PIPER by Chris Riley book review of The Sinking of the Angie Piper by Chris Riley.

Publication date: June 2017
Category: literary suspense / man vs nature action

Summary (from the publisher):

Ed and his childhood friend Danny are gearing up in Kodiak, Alaska, preparing to join the Angie Piper’s crew for another season of crab fishing. Ed is a relative newcomer, but despite the perils of the trade, he sees no reason to fear for Danny’s safety. The Angie Piper has always been blessed. She has a stalwart captain, Fred, a crack engineer, Dave, and two time-tested pros to keep the rest of the operation running smoothly, exuberant Loni and the more reticent Salazar.

Every season has a greenhorn, the one who works for a pittance in order to learn the ropes. This time around it is Ed’s friend Danny, no ordinary crewman. Their shared history is complex. Though strong, brave, and hardworking, Danny is a simple soul, and Ed is weighed down by guilt, dark memories of the many times he failed to defend his friend against the inevitable bullying. And cantankerous Dave believes Danny is a bad omen, so much so that his bitter opposition may endanger them all.

The season starts off strong, and the crew is elated by the bounty of their catch. Then their luck turns. The skies grow dark, the waves swell, and Mother Nature bears down on them with her full arsenal. When the storm finally abates, who will live to tell the tale?

ScienceThrillers review:

A family vacation to Alaska is on my horizon later this summer, so it’s fitting that I read The Sinking of the Angie Piper by Chris Riley.

On that trip I think I’ll stick close to shore.

Riley, a Sacramento-based writer like myself, creates a richly textured backdrop of Alaskan fishing culture against which he tells the tale of the Angie Piper and her crew of commercial crab fishermen working the Gulf of Alaska in winter. Narrator Edward Thurman, a young but not novice member of the crew, has brought his best friend Danny Wilson aboard as the ship’s greenhorn (new crewman)–an act met by the derision of one of the crew, because Danny has Down Syndrome. The reader gets into the ship’s rhythm of hard work and recovery amid terrible cold on the unforgiving sea, feeling the icy spray and alternating ecstasy and weariness of the men.

Then the weather changes.

Grievances and regrets fall away amid an escalating struggle to survive. Author Chris Riley steadily raises the stakes, pushing you to turn the pages toward a satisfying conclusion.

This book does an amazing job of transporting the reader to a distant and strange world on the crabbing vessel which feels totally real. Author Riley has personal experience as an educator working with Down’s kids, which shows in his tender but never maudlin portrayal of Danny. As narrator Ed learns to see that there is more to Danny than he thought, so does the reader.

The Sinking of the Angie Piper is a superb short novel that blends the best of literary and suspense fiction with dramatic themes of man vs himself and man vs nature, with redemption in the end.

Chris Riley got his start writing short stories, and he has written many. His focus is science fiction, horror, and weird/strange stories. Many have been published; explore his work here.

I read an advance copy of this book which I received for free from the author.

Support and the book’s author: Click to buy The Sinking of the Angie Piper from

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The Silence YA SciFi by Mark Alpert now available

International Thriller Writers’ monthly magazine THE BIG THRILL features the new young adult science fiction release from my good friend Mark Alpert. THE SILENCE is book 3 in his trilogy (which began with THE SIX, reviewed by ScienceThrillers here) about teenagers dying of fatal diseases whose lives are preserved by turning into robots. Great fun, plenty of action for reluctant readers, all based in real science that goes speculative.

Below is a “reprint” of the article from THE BIG THRILL. Copyright © 2016 International Thriller Writers, Inc.

The Silence by Mark Alpert

The Role of Real Science in Thrillers

By April Snellings

If a decade of writing science thrillers has dulled Mark Alpert’s enthusiasm for his craft, you certainly can’t tell it from speaking with him. When he talks about his latest release, THE SILENCE, Alpert doesn’t offer any of the rehearsed answers to which popular novelists sometimes default. Instead, he gives an enthusiastic crash course in brain science, nanotechnology, and gene editing—not to mention the alchemy of splicing those lofty ideas into fast-paced, intensely readable thrillers.

Alpert, a self-described “lifelong science geek,” spent years oscillating between the worlds of science and writing before he settled into a career that combined the two disciplines. He holds a degree in astrophysics from Princeton, and another in poetry from Columbia University. He worked as a reporter for newspapers and magazines before becoming an editor at Scientific American in 1998; ten years later he published his first novel, 2008’s Final Theory.

This month finds Alpert wrapping up his first sojourn into yet another world: young adult literature. Alpert’s third YA thriller, THE SILENCE, hits bookstores on July 4 from Sourcebooks Fire. It’s the final installment in a trilogy that began with The Six in 2015 and continued last year with The Siege. (If you missed those first entries, you’re in luck; the publisher released paperback reissues of both volumes in June.)

Like many writers, Alpert credits his kids, and their reading habits, with pulling him into the realm of YA fiction. “I have a 17-year-old boy who’s going off to college in the fall and a 15-year-old girl who’s a sophomore in high school,” he says. “My daughter’s a big reader; my son, a little less so. But when he found a series he liked, he really devoured it. He loved the Maze Runner series and a couple of others. I thought, well, I’ll try to write a series sort of like that, and I’ll make it a science thriller, like my books for adults.”

A signing at Books of Wonder, the children’s bookstore in Manhattan

The result was The Six, a sci-fi actioner about six terminally ill teenagers who participate in an experimental U.S. Army program that uploads their minds into sophisticated, combat-ready robots. Like most of Alpert’s adult fiction, the story can be traced back to his days as a science editor.

“When I was at Scientific American, I would often write or edit stories about robots,” Alpert remembers. “Companies would send their latest robot to the magazine so we could test it out. And then I’d also read The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil, and that’s kind of a cool, freaky idea—that you could somehow record everything in your mind. If you could actually figure out how the brain works and how it encodes your thoughts, theoretically it’s possible to record all that information and then put it in digital form and put it in a robot. It’s a kind of technological immortality. And so I thought, wow, if I was gonna write a book with teenage protagonists, it would be interesting if maybe they were the first ones to make that leap from human to robot.”

The trilogy centers on Adam Armstrong, a sports-loving boy forced into a wheelchair at the age of twelve by muscular dystrophy. By the time he’s 17, Adam’s disease has advanced to the terminal stage; to save his life, Adam’s scientist father uses experimental brain-imaging technology to scan the teen’s brain and transfer his consciousness to a nine-foot war machine.

The setup might sound farfetched given the trilogy’s contemporary setting, but the human-to-robot transformation at the heart of the books has roots in existing technology. As with his adult novels, which include the 2013 techno thriller Extinction and the 2016 first-contact yarn The Orion Plan, Alpert says it’s important to him to incorporate real science into every aspect of his YA adventures. For THE SILENCE and its predecessors, he found footing in the BRAIN Initiative, a $100 million brain-imaging project spearheaded by the Obama administration in 2013. While the technology is being developed with an eye toward medical applications such as cancer and Alzheimer’s treatment, Alpert’s writer brain went in another direction.

“One of the technologies they’re looking at is using nanoparticles that will only chemically bond to tumor sites,” he explains. “So you inject these nanoparticles into the body, and they find the tumor, and then you take a specific kind of light to selectively heat those nanoparticles and eliminate the tumor. This is a real technology. I remember writing about it at Scientific American. And that’s the technology I used to image the brain [in the Six trilogy].”

But for all the heady science and spectacular action sequences—THE SILENCE finds Adam doing battle at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, in surreal virtual reality landscapes, and even inside the body of a dying girl in a Fantastic Voyage-style microbiological showdown – the biggest challenge the kids face is retaining their humanity.

Mark Alpert

“That’s a big struggle in these books,” Alpert says. “Once you become a robot, you have so much power, and you can move from one machine to the next, and your mental abilities are incredible. But can you maintain your humanity when you’re so powerful? That’s what Adam and the other characters struggle with.”

And while that focus on humanity over hardware has helped the books resonate with young readers, Alpert has found that kids are just as intrigued as adults by the sophisticated science that underpins his work.

“I’m a true believer in not dumbing down the books for young adults,” he says. “I think they can have just as much science as adult novels. I get most inspired when I see a kid who’s read the books and they totally get it—they understand every single bit in it and have actually thought the matter through more than I have. I love hearing that, because then you realize, these kids are smart. If they’re passionate about it, they’ll understand it better than I can understand it. That’s my goal, I guess.”

April Snellings is a staff writer and project editor for RUE MORGUE MAGAZINE, which reaches more than 500,000 horror, thriller, and suspense fans across its media platforms. She recently joined the lineup of creators for Glass Eye Pix’s acclaimed audio drama series TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, an Entertainment Weekly “Must List” pick that has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. April’s Season Three episode of TALES – a darkly comic horror/crime mash-up called “Food Chain” – was an iTunes Top 25 Fiction Audiobooks bestseller. You can visit her website at or connect with her on Twitter @AprilSnellings.

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Book buzz: SPY ACROSS THE TABLE by Barry Lancet book review of The Spy Across the Table (Jim Brodie #4) by Barry Lancet.

Publication date: June 2017
Category: international thriller

Summary (from the publisher):

Jim Brodie is an antiques dealer, Japan expert, and second-generation private investigator. When two theater friends are murdered backstage at a Kennedy Center performance in Washington, DC, he’s devastated—and determined to hunt down the killer. He’s not the only one.

After the attack, Brodie is summoned to the White House. The First Lady was the college roommate of one of the victims, and she enlists Brodie—off the books—to use his Japanese connections to track down the assassin. Homeland Security head Tom Swelley is furious that the White House is meddling and wants Brodie off the case. Why? For the same reason a master Chinese spy known only as Zhou, one of the most dangerous men alive, appears on the scene: Those murders were no random act of violence.

Brodie flies to Tokyo to attend the second of two funerals, when his friend’s daughter Anna is kidnapped during the ceremony. It is then Brodie realizes that the murders were simply bait to draw her out of hiding. Anna, it seems, is the key architect of a top-secret NSA program that gathers the personal secrets of America’s most influential leaders. Secrets so damaging that North Korea and China will stop at nothing to get them.

ScienceThrillers review:

I’m a big fan of Barry Lancet’s novels, the Jim Brodie series of international action thrillers that are largely set in Japan. Book #4 The Spy Across the Table was just released. I opened to page 1 and in the first line I was reminded of why I enjoy Lancet’s writing so much: “Mikey was shot because he begged me for a favor and I complied.”

The narrator and protagonist, Jim Brodie, is a singular character in modern genre fiction. Brodie is most passionate about art and antiques, particularly the Japanese objects that he sells in his antiques shop in San Francisco. But the character (like the author) has also lived in Japan for a long time. Brodie’s father left him a private security agency in Tokyo, which Jim continues to own and operate. In previous books, it was this connection to the agency which landed him in trouble. In Spy, Brodie’s involvement begins with a personal tragedy–a vendetta to find out who murdered his friend. This quest quickly spins out of control into something much larger, involving governments and the Chinese super-spy of the title. Did Lancet know that North Korea and tensions in East Asia would make his plot so timely?

As with previous novels in this series, the book is full of insights into Japanese culture, art, and history. Also as previously, Brodie is a reluctant fighter but he is a master of hand-to-hand combat, and Lancet writes the fight scenes in spectacular fashion. What is different this time is a much darker tone. Spy is Brodie’s most wrenching experience yet, messing with his mind, his heart and soul, and definitely his body. If a character is revealed by the choices he makes in the most difficult circumstances, then Jim Brodie bares his soul in this book. After all he suffered, what kind of man will he become in the next book? We’ll find out in a year or two, I expect, with a book #5 which I will be eager to read.

An advance copy of this book was given to me with no promise of a review, good or bad.

Support and the book’s author: Click to buy The Spy Across the Table from

Other books in the Jim Brodie series: Japantown; Tokyo Kill; Pacific Burn

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Guest post: Bee venom death: murder or accident? welcomes Darden North, IPPY Award-winning novelist and physician, to tell us about some science in his medical thriller The Five Manners of Death, which is being published today.

Want to read it? Enter to win a paperback copy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway FIVE MANNERS OF DEATH

The Five Manners of Death by Darden North. Medical thriller (June 15, 2017)

When a construction worker unearths a decades-old human skull on the campus of the University of Mississippi, he sets in motion an eerie chain of events that leaves one woman desperate to rewrite history and another woman desperate to find the truth.

After the discovery of her Aunt Phoebe’s 50-year-old note detailing the five manners of death, surgeon Diana Bratton is surrounded by bodies.  Suicide, accident, natural cause, and one death classified undetermined are soon crossed off this grisly list—leaving Diana to believe that only homicide remains. But the police prove her wrong.  Phoebe is linked to murder not only with the discovery of the skeletal fragments on the University campus but to the recent deaths of two local men. Diana is torn:  should she try to prove her aunt’s innocence or accept police theory that her beautiful, beloved aunt is a woman who harbors dark and deadly secrets.

Stealing precious time from her young daughter, her surgical practice, and her hopes for a renewed romance, Diana launches a pulse-quickening quest to clear Phoebe’s name.  However, as she searches for evidence, Diana finds that her desire to reach the truth may be eclipsed by Aunt Phoebe’s need to rebury the past. When reality finally emerges, Diana faces the cold fact that murder is a family affair.  After all, things aren’t always what they seem. And some things never die…

Support and the author by buying The Five Manners of Death at

Beekeeping death: Accident or homicide?

Guest post by Darden North, author of The Five Manners of Death

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are five manners of death: natural, accident, suicide, homicide, and undetermined. This science of death is central to the plot of my new thriller, The Five Manners of Death. When surgeon Diana Bratton crosses paths with the five ways to die, she believes that homicide is the only one left. Then the police prove her wrong. Diana discovers that homicide—that murder—is her family secret. This family allegiance complicates her life; for Diana Bratton, loyalty trumps the truth.

Dr. Diana Bratton understands a medical examiner’s duty to assign the cause of death. However, lines can blur. For instance, the body of a beekeeper discovered in his own bee hive, his death ruled due to anaphylactic shock secondary to bee venom allergy—is this an accident or a homicide? And who would maintain a bee-keeping hobby when allergic to bees?

Dewey Marzel in The Five Manners of Death—that’s who.

Bee venom easily absorbs through oral mucous membranes, initiating an allergic reaction for poor Marzel early in the novel—no bee stings involved. Since the food consumed was served as peanut butter cookies, Drs. Diana Bratton and Brad Cummins, the medical team on site, assume that Marzel suffers an allergy to peanuts. Red herrings … great tools for the thriller or mystery writer.

Not a beekeeper myself, I consulted two local friends in my research. Both Mart and Bill keep their beekeeping equipment and colonies on their own neighborhood city property. Mart’s home is not far from my own; he and his wife also raise chickens and have had pet peacocks roaming their property. Bill is an otolaryngologist, or ENT physician, who bottles his honey as gifts and donates the product at fund raisers.

In our conversations, I learned that my friends do not use fancy terms for their hives such as apiary or bee yard, nor do they refer to themselves as apiarists, the more glamorous-sounding name for a beekeeper. Both Mart and Bill mentioned that all beekeepers get stung at some point, like when a trapped bee goes unnoticed in a fold of clothing until it’s too late.

Honeybees are generally docile, but for my character Dewey Marzel, it is a different story.

Marzel’s apiary is a simple operation. He understands the need to use smoke as a protective means when entering the hive. Although in The Five Manners of Death I do not detail the science behind this human defensive mechanism, I went to for answers. In seems that smoke from a fancy smoker device or even a burning broomstick indirectly converts aggressive bees into more docile creatures. When detecting smoke, bees suspect a nearby wildfire and plan to relocate the hive to escape the flames. In preparation for the move, they gorge on their own honey, fill their bellies and become satiated and lazy.

Smoke also masks the alarm pheromone given off by guard bees. To another insect this chemical substance resembles the smell of banana candy. Maybe that’s why one never sees a beekeeper eating a banana before harvesting his honey or performing maintenance on her apiary. (Source:

Dewey Marzel does not eat a banana in The Five Manners of Death—nor does he suck on banana candy. He has enough problems already.

“Darden North’s fifth novel, The Five Manners of Death, a fast-moving story of crime and deception in the modern South.”—John M. Floyd, Edgar Award nominee and three-time Derringer Award winner

The Five Manners of Death … so filled with twists and turns that it leaves us breathless.”— Martin Hegwood, author of Jackpot Bay

About the Author:

Darden North’s mystery and thriller novels have been awarded nationally, most notably an IPPY in Southern Fiction for Points of Origin.  The Five Manners of Death also follows Wiggle RoomFresh Frozen, and House Call. Darden has served on author panels at writing conferences including Killer Nashville, Murder on the Menu, SIBA Thriller Author Panel, and Murder in the Magic City. To book Darden for a book club, book signing, or presentation contact: A board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist practicing at Jackson Healthcare for Women in Flowood, Mississippi, Darden North is Chairman of the Board of the Mississippi Public Broadcasting Foundation and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Mississippi Medical Association. He lives in Jackson with his wife Sally and enjoys family, travel, and, outdoor activities. The Norths have two adult children, who also work in the medical field.​

Author’s website:

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Book review: CHEMISTRY a novel by Weike Wang book review of Chemistry, a novel by Weike Wang


(excellent; top 30% of SciThri)

Tech rating (out of 5):

Publication date: May 2017
Category: LabLit; women’s fiction

Summary (from the publisher):

Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

ScienceThrillers review:

I was halfway through Chemistry, a novel by Weike Wang when it hit me: this is NOT a memoir.

The voice in Chemistry is so compelling that I thought I was inside a real person’s story. I was relieved to remember this is fiction, partly because I pitied the parents reading about themselves in this light, and partly because I recently read Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and I was starting to wonder if all women in science are mentally ill.

No, they definitely are not, but maybe all writers are.

Anyway, Chemistry is a work of literary fiction, not genre or thriller, and is driven by character instead of plot. Thriller fans at this blog might not care for it. But I found this slender book hypnotic and read it in two sittings. Is it because like the nameless main character, I have been a graduate student in a high-powered university science lab? Is it because I married into Chinese culture and have a fascination with the tiger mom stereotype? These elements helped, but I think Chemistry has an appeal that goes far beyond that.

This is a deeply introspective novel. The narrator is emotionally flawed and aware of her flaws. She’s brilliant yet foolish, an achiever who sees failure in her life. She is coming of age but afraid of true adulthood. She wants to be happy but doesn’t know what happiness looks like. To quote from blurbs on the back cover, “How do we learn to love if we haven’t been taught?” About the voice: “by turns deadpan and despairing, wry and wrenching” “unflinching and painfully self-aware” “insight and charm.”

I approached this book with trepidation, worried that it would be another whiney millennial voice. That a sense of entitlement and precociousness would sour the whole thing. Not the case. The narrator is clearly messed up (hence the psychiatry visits), but she is the opposite of a whiner. Her pain doesn’t make her lash out at the world. She beats herself up instead. (Her lovingly portrayed dog helps!)

Science–trivia, history, culture–permeates the book. Science-y interjections pop up on almost every page. Some readers may find them too abstruse, unrelated to the surrounding text. I did occasionally, but I never felt the author crossed the line into pretension.

Chemistry definitely has a lot in common with Lab Girl. Fiction vs memoir. Chemistry vs botany. While the botany essays in Lab Girl can’t be topped, overall I enjoyed this book much more. The brief length, which perfectly suits the subject matter, helped.

Chemistry, a novel by Weike Wang is an elegantly written, sensitive work of literary fiction in the LabLit genre. If you read a lot of science thrillers and are willing to try something different, I recommend this book.

Support and the book’s author: Click to buy Chemistry from

If you like Chemistry, you might enjoy: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Book review: SEVENTH SUN by Kent Lester book review of The Seventh Sun by Kent Lester


(excellent; top 30% of SciThri)

Tech rating (out of 5):

Publication date: April 2017
Category: Science thriller

Summary (from the publisher):

A seemingly random murder alerts scientist Dan Clifford to a global conspiracy that stretches from the halls of Washington to the Honduran coast. Illegal, undersea activities have unwittingly uncovered a primordial secret that is wreaking havoc on aquatic life and the local human population.

When the CDC and the full resources of a U.S. “threat interdiction” team fails to uncover the source of the devastation, Dan and a brilliant marine biologist, Rachel Sullivan, must race to unravel an unimaginable, ancient mystery in the murky depths. It’s up to them to stop this terror before a determined multi-national corporation triggers a worldwide extinction event, the Seventh Sun of ancient myth.

ScienceThrillers review:

Kent Lester, debut author of The Seventh Sun, and New York Times #1 bestselling author James Rollins currently have the same literary agent representing their work. Sharing an agent isn’t the only thing Lester and Rollins have in common. Fans of Sigma Force will find a lot to like about The Seventh Sun.

The protagonist Dan Clifford is a level-headed scientist with a strong sense of ethics and a claustrophobic streak. Completely dedicated to his work (which has something to do with a massive detection and computer processing system that might predict earthquakes, among other things), Clifford doesn’t really want to stick his nose into the shady financial and political dealings of his corporate boss. But he does, scheduling a scuba diving trip to Honduras in order to visit the company’s manufacturing facility there. While diving, he finds a dead body. (In a book where the idea of “black swans” comes up repeatedly, this belief-shattering coincidence is perhaps a good example of such an unlikely event, but this reader was happy to forgive the coincidence as just one of those things you sometimes have to accept to make a good story unfold.)

Lester writes plenty of action and intrigue in a variety of arresting scenes that tickle the imagination. His settings include laboratories, rock climbing cliffs, scuba diving, boats of all kinds, deep-sea submersibles, medical facilities, a computer chip factory, a Congressional committee chamber, and more. (I don’t know if MOBIDIC, the Mobile Infectious Disease Interdiction Center is a real thing or not, but it totally should be!)

Of course I’m attracted to the science elements of the story. I’m pleased to say such elements are abundant, accessible, and accurate. How can I not love a novel in which the origin of eukaryotic life is a major plot point? Most impressive of all, in this book Lester successfully navigates what I call the “killer virus ending” problem. Plenty of plague thrillers release a deadly infection on the world, but few of them plausibly put the cat back into the bag. Lester manages this with technical sophistication and flair.

The Seventh Sun stumbles a little with actions that can’t quite be justified but are required by the plot, and an odd story structure which makes the book feel like two novels in one with a preliminary climax halfway through.

But these flaws are far from fatal. The Seventh Sun by Kent Lester successfully joins real science with action, exotic settings, and the threat of a global catastrophe. I enjoyed every page of this smart, fun thriller novel.

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

Support and the book’s author: Click to buy Seventh Sun from

Author’s website:

If you like The Seventh Sun, you might enjoy: Petroplague by Amy Rogers

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The Earth is pregnant: thriller novel EVEREST RISING by MD Kambic

When I first saw a draft of Matt Kambic’s thriller EVEREST RISING, the novelty of his premise–the Earth is pregnant–had me hooked. I guided Matt through a couple of rewrites, and then published his novel through ScienceThrillers Media. Kambic’s splendid story of science, speculative fiction, and mystical visionary themes has now won the Mountain and Adventure Fiction category of the New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival, as well as a Northern California Publishers and Authors book award.

Here, Kambic shares thoughts on the visionary elements of his science-tinged adventure novel.

Pregnant Thoughts on a Visionary Storyline
by M.D. Kambic, author of EVEREST RISING

It’s a long way from Pennsylvania to Mount Everest. I’m still on the road (a bit closer – now living in New Zealand) but don’t know if I’ll ever get there. It’s not unlike the journey from being born to understanding, or at least making peace with, the meaning of life.

I’m an American man married to a Kiwi woman, retired from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 2013. My first novel was published a few months ago. It’s called Everest Rising, and the plot is relatively straightforward – the Earth is pregnant.

The idea came from a few different places. I am always searching for the new storyline– a tale that hasn’t been told and an engaging core around which to build a compelling narrative. I want my characters to grapple with both the commonness of existence and the wonder sneaking in around the edges. This wonder serves as a catalyst for transforming the human experience; a transformation revealed through the senses, understood by the mind, and confirmed by the heart.

The ‘pregnant Earth’ construct allowed space for various themes to intermingle and for passionate conflicts to play out. There’s conflict concerning the Earth: a living, possibly sentient entity about to safeguard its existence against humankind’s wayward stewardship. There’s conflict among the characters, many of them scientists who must decide how to deal with an unprecedented, physics-defying chain of events. At its center, the story is about acceptance. Accepting how little we know, and in that unknowing choosing how to use our energies and where to direct our focus. Where can one find answers – or some version of a contented frame of mind that reconciles what we guess is true with what we realize will always be mystery.

My aims in writing Everest Rising were simple. To entertain, to nourish hope, and to encourage the acceptance of the unknowable. I would also add I believe this ‘unknowable’ is a positive, never a threat. It speaks to and requires a great reaching, that pulls and propels our mind and spirit up and out, higher and wider, away from the self and the ego.

It was wonderful to explore the musings of so many characters, trying to depict a cross-section of world views and personal ‘what is the meaning of life’ explorations, along with attempting to describe the prescient transformation made possible when individuals are graced with profound realizations.

In doing so, I could explore my own experiences, consider others I’ve been privileged to hear or read about, and maybe lament the dead ends I have stumbled into.

The following is a short overview of the significant characters in my story and a look at the arcs they travel.

James Von Kamburg

A scientist who understands the world is being undone by humankind’s indifference, James is also a man confused by his own heart. He is adrift in his marriage because he doesn’t want to bring children into the painful future on the horizon, allowing the tenets of commitment to his wife to be blurred by the attentions of another woman. Yet, he has a core of integrity as a backstop, and an important opening in the lockbox of his memory that speaks to something beyond what science, and his own senses, know as physical law.

(In the story, James relates a memory from his young adulthood about a celestial event witnessed that itself defied physics. This memory is from my own life, and reminds me that wherever I manage to get to in my ‘knowing’, some things will remain unexplainable.)

Maggie Von Kamburg

James’ spouse is an artist, who entered the profession after an initial foray into science during her university years. She desires a family, environmental Armageddon notwithstanding. More than anyone else in the story, Maggie has known frightening and exhilarating exhortations urging her to embrace a different level of consciousness, and in the end, she succumbs to the risk. On the other side are things both wonderful and terrifying.

Jared Griffon

Griffon is the antagonist, a man of money and power, and spiritual unconsciousness. He would see the world bend under the rule of science, and yet there are hints he might stumble into a more compassionate space.

Leslie Finch

Finch, Griffon’s paramour, is a woman driven to find professional success. Yet, her emotions lead her into dangerous terroritories. She has flashes of insight revealing that much of what she does and thinks is not in her best interests, but cannot find a path that will save her.

Maya Danheela

A Sherpani physician, Maya embodies hope and tenacity. She is a forthright, steadfast helpmate to her community and her friends. At odds with the western-intoxicated influences of an Everest located luxury lodge and its owners, she is drawn into the escalating crisis, and called upon to navigate with both her sharp psychological instincts and formidable physical prowess the astounding events at hand.

Abbot Gaia

A long-serving man of the Buddhist cloth, the Abbot finds the very basis of his spiritual and earthly existence under attack. His contract with a western firm means money for members of his order who live under oppressive rule, but the firm’s emerging defilement of the land faces him with a collision of doubt and faith. His world– the Earth, in upheaval– he must counsel from a place of great apprehension to help bring about a morally irreproachable, if uncertain, outcome.

These players are cast beside and against each other. The slow transforming of minds and mindsets bends the plot and drives the denouement. Mother Earth herself does not go without a voice.

To summarize, my novel is a stage where individuals must reconsider their hard-earned absolutes in the face of contradictory evidence. The unfolding events bring each character to a critical juncture that requires a new manner of thinking and, indeed, being.

Though the physical realm may bruise and bite, bringing even death, the greatest battles are fought in the mind and spirit, where compassion and grace and wonder stand their ground against selfishness and ego and absolutes. Everest Rising stages an animated tableau where this engagement is laid bare.

My life has known the strange trajectory that delivers one from existential conviction (via science and religion) to the place of uncertain yet greatly comforting hope and acceptance. I won’t ever know what I once thought I did, as far as where I arrived from and where I may end up. But I can accept and revel in the miracle of being at all, and warm to the nudges that our existence is blessed and ever-evolving.

My hope as the author is that readers will be philosophically moved by the revelations inside the hearts of the story’s players. And, maybe, recognize in their own lives the profound opportunities glimpsed when the soul, with its wider, searching consciousness, is given purchase on the multi-textured, wondrous pathway from Birth to the Beyond.

Photo credit: Jason Haselden

About the author

Matt Kambic is a writer and artist who hails originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Visit Matt’s website at

To purchase a copy of Everest Rising, click here

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