The Washington Post
Blasphemyby Douglas Preston, Scott Sowers
In Douglas Preston's Blasphemy, the world’s biggest supercollider, locked in an Arizona mountain, was built to unlock the secrets of the very moment of creation: the Big Bang itself. The Torus is the most expensive machine ever created by humankind, run by the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It is the brainchild of Nobel Laureate William/i>… See more details below
In Douglas Preston's Blasphemy, the world’s biggest supercollider, locked in an Arizona mountain, was built to unlock the secrets of the very moment of creation: the Big Bang itself. The Torus is the most expensive machine ever created by humankind, run by the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It is the brainchild of Nobel Laureate William North Hazelius. Will the Torus divulge the mysteries of the creation of the universe? Or will it, as some predict, suck the earth into a mini black hole? Or is the Torus a Satanic attempt, as a powerful televangelist decries, to challenge God Almighty on the very throne of heaven?
Twelve scientists under the leadership of a famed Nobel Laureate are sent to the remote mountain to turn it on...And what they discover must be hidden from the world at all costs. Wyman Ford, ex-monk and CIA operative, is tapped to wrest from the team their secret, a secret that will either destroy the world—or save it. The countdown begins...
The Washington Post
Two wise decisions move this thriller up from the ranks of the ordinary: Scott Sowers's reading and a bonus interview with Preston by the editor-in-chief of Scientific American. Sowers, who has read Preston's work in the past with impressive results, adds a needed degree of calm and charm to this tangled tale of a giant superconducting supercollider particle accelerator called Isabella, located inside a 500-acre mesa on a Navajo reservation. Sowers gives all the characters instant credibility, from the physicist who created Isabella, to the ex-CIA man sent by the president to see what's taking so long, and especially a powerful televangelist who sees the project as blasphemy. In the interview, Preston admits he got the idea from the late L. Ron Hubbard. Sowers and Preston make this confrontation between religion and science surprisingly smart and new. Simultaneous release with the Forge hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 22). (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
When a talented reader narrates a spellbinding story by a consistently powerful author, great things happen in the audio world. Scott Sowers nails the suspense of Preston's latest novel; listeners will be grabbed from the very first paragraph of this "ripped-from-the-headlines" story of science and religion clashing, with tragic results. In the Navajo lands of Arizona, a brilliant scientist has built the world's most powerful machine, nicknamed "Isabella." Its purpose is to bring science to the exact moment of the "big bang," the theory that explains the creation of the universe. Former CIA operative Wyman Ford is sent to the Isabella project to find out why it is far behind in producing results. What he discovers is much more than the government had bargained for: when Isabella is fully operational, a voice emanates from the machine that the scientists believe is God. It has answers to unanswerable questions and knows the innermost thoughts of many of the experts who created Isabella. While they are grappling with this astonishing discovery, a sleazy Washington lawyer and a powerful televangelist conspire to bring down what they consider to be the godless purpose of the Isabella project. Preston never fails to deliver a first-rate thriller, and with Sowers providing the outstanding narrative, listeners are in for a non-stop-and thought-provoking-audio experience. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Preston is the New York Times best-selling author of Tyrannosaur Canyon; Blasphemy is also available as downloadable audio from Audible.com.-Ed.]
Joseph L. Carlson
Like Isabella, a giant "superconducting supercollider particle accelerator," the thought-provoking new thriller from bestseller Preston (Tyrannosaur Canyon) takes a while to power up, but once it does, this baby roars. The ostensible goal of Isabella's creator, physicist Gregory North Hazelius, is to discover new forms of energy, but what he really wants is to talk to God. The project, located inside Red Mesa ("a five-hundred-square-mile tableland on the Navajo Indian Reservation"), is behind schedule, so presidential science adviser Stanton Lockwood hires ex-CIA man Wyman Ford to go to Red Mesa and find out what's causing the holdup. Meanwhile, a Navajo medicine man, a televangelist and a pastor who runs a failed mission on the reservation are gearing up to pull the plug on Isabella before she destroys the earth. Science has often tangled with religion in this genre, but Preston puts his own philosophical spin on the usual proceedings, and when he gets his irate villagers with their burning torches headed for the castle, the pages simply fly. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
A superb read! Blasphemy is both thoughtful and flat-out entertainment--a page-turning thriller about science and religion in which good and evil collide at the speed of light. You'll be up all night with this book.
Terrifyingly realistic. An electrifying page turner. Preston at his very best.
Blasphemy takes the latest theories of physics and pits them against the ancient religious beliefs that they now threaten, in an explosive, hell-bent and finally deeply moving book that I doubt I will ever forget. It literally made me pace as I contemplated the ideas that crackle through these pages, and it gave me pause as I realized that the physics here is so close to reality that the face of God that appears in this book may soon be, in real life, before us all.
In Blasphemy, Preston rips the toga off God, and what remains is simply the answer to the most profound question of human existence...why are we here? A stunningly great read.
Blasphemy is one hell of a good book. I couldn't stop reading, and at the end I had to force myself to slow down!
Preston has taken a fascinating concept and implemented it brilliantly. It's one of those books you think and talk about after you've finished it. I loved the characters. Even the sleazy ones were well-done. Science meets religion with a side order of politics. The mixture is explosive!
Can science discover God? Blasphemy is a stunningly ambitious novel that lives up to its goals. The theme is nothing less than the question: Is science the new religion?
“This baby roars... the pages simply fly.” Publishers Weekly
“Highly recommended... Preston joins Michael Crichton as a master of suspenseful novels that tackle controversial issues in the realm of science.” Library Journal
“An unusually alarming and thoughtful thriller... Clever and terrifying.” Kirkus
“A superb read! Blasphemy is both thoughtful and flat-out entertainment--a page-turning thriller about science and religion in which good and evil collide at the speed of light. You'll be up all night with this book.” Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author of The Sleeping Doll
“Science versus religion--the ultimate crunch. Douglas Preston has written The Novel of the Year, an extraordinary, unique, fascinating, wildly imaginative mix of thriller, satire, Sci Fi, and every other genre in the book. Blasphemy--you're going to love it.” Stephen Coonts, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassin
“Terrifyingly realistic. An electrifying page turner. Preston at his very best.” Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, New York Times bestselling author of Revenge of Innocents
“With Blasphemy, Douglas Preston has finally gone too far. One way or another, I'm afraid he may burn for this book.” Lincoln Child, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Storm
“Blasphemy takes the latest theories of physics and pits them against the ancient religious beliefs that they now threaten, in an explosive, hell-bent and finally deeply moving book that I doubt I will ever forget. It literally made me pace as I contemplated the ideas that crackle through these pages, and it gave me pause as I realized that the physics here is so close to reality that the face of God that appears in this book may soon be, in real life, before us all.” Whitley Strieber, New York Times bestselling author of 2012: The War For Souls
“In Blasphemy, Preston rips the toga off God, and what remains is simply the answer to the most profound question of human existence...why are we here? A stunningly great read.” W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, USA Today bestselling authors of People of the Nightland and the novels of North America's Forgotten Past
“Blasphemy is one hell of a good book. I couldn't stop reading, and at the end I had to force myself to slow down!” David Hagberg, winner of three American Mystery Awards and USA Today bestselling author of Dance With the Dragon
“Preston has taken a fascinating concept and implemented it brilliantly. It's one of those books you think and talk about after you've finished it. I loved the characters. Even the sleazy ones were well-done. Science meets religion with a side order of politics. The mixture is explosive!” Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Dangerous Ground
“Can science discover God? Blasphemy is a stunningly ambitious novel that lives up to its goals. The theme is nothing less than the question: Is science the new religion?” Barbara D'Amato, Edgar Award Winner and author of Death of a Thousand Cuts
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Read an Excerpt
By Douglas Preston
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 Splendide Mendax, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Ken Dolby stood before his workstation, his smooth, polished fingers caressing the controls of Isabella. He waited, savoring the moment, and then he unlocked a cage on the panel and pulled down a small red bar.
There was no hum, no sound, nothing to indicate that the most expensive scientific instrument on earth had been turned on. Except that, two hundred miles away, the lights of Las Vegas dimmed ever so slightly.
As Isabella warmed up, Dolby began to feel the fine vibration of her through the floor. He thought of the machine as a woman, and in his more imaginative moments he had even imagined what she looked like — tall and slender, with a muscular back, black as the desert night, beaded with sweat. Isabella. He had shared these feelings with no one — no point in attracting ridicule. To the rest of the scientists on the project, Isabella was an "it," a dead machine built for a specific purpose. But Dolby had always felt a deep affection for the machines he created — from when he was ten years old and constructed his first radio from a kit. Fred. That was the radio's name. And when he thought of Fred, he saw a fat carroty-haired white man. The first computer he had built was Betty — who looked in his head like a brisk and efficient secretary. He couldn't explain why his machines took on the personalities they did — it just happened.
And now this, the world's most powerful particle accelerator ... Isabella.
"How's it look?" asked Hazelius, the team leader, coming over and placing an affectionate hand on his shoulder.
"Purring like a cat," said Dolby.
"Good." Hazelius straightened up and spoke to the team. "Gather round, I have an announcement to make."
Silence fell as the team members straightened up from their workstations and waited. Hazelius strode across the small room and positioned himself in front of the biggest of the plasma screens. Small, slight, as sleek and restless as a caged mink, he paced in front of the screen for a moment before turning to them with a brilliant smile. It never ceased to amaze Dolby what a charismatic presence the man had.
"My dear friends," he began, scanning the group with turquoise eyes. "It's 1492. We're at the bow of the Santa Maria, gazing at the sea horizon, moments before the coastline of the New World comes into view. Today is the day we sail over that unknown horizon and land upon the shores of our very own New World."
He reached down into the Chapman bag he always carried and pulled out a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. He held it up like a trophy, his eyes sparkling, and thumped it down on the table. "This is for later tonight, when we set foot on the beach. Because tonight, we bring Isabella to one hundred percent full power."
Silence greeted the announcement. Finally Kate Mercer, the assistant director of the project, spoke. "What happened to the plan to do three runs at ninety-five percent?"
Hazelius returned her look with a smile. "I'm impatient. Aren't you?"
Mercer brushed back her glossy black hair. "What if we hit an unknown resonance or generate a miniature black hole?"
"Your own calculations show a one in quadrillion chance of that particular downside."
"My calculations might be wrong."
"Your calculations are never wrong." Hazelius smiled and turned to Dolby. "What do you think? Is she ready?"
"You're damn right she's ready."
Hazelius spread his hands. "Well?"
Everyone looked at each other. Should they risk it? Volkonsky, the Russian programmer, suddenly broke the ice. "Yes, we go for it!" He high-fived a startled Hazelius, and then everyone began slapping each other on the back, shaking hands, and hugging, like a basketball team before a game.
* * *
Five hours and as many bad coffees later, Dolby stood before the huge flat-panel screen. It was still dark — the matter–antimatter proton beams had not been brought into contact. It took forever to power up the machine and cool down Isabella's superconducting magnets to carry the very large currents necessary. Then it was a matter of increasing beam luminosity by increments of 5 percent, focusing and collimating the beams, checking the superconducting magnets, running various test programs, before going up to the next 5 percent.
"Power at ninety percent," Dolby intoned.
"Christ damn," said Volkonsky somewhere behind him, giving the Sunbeam coffeemaker a blow that made it rattle like the Tin Man. "Empty already!"
Dolby repressed a smile. During the two weeks they'd been up on the mesa, Volkonsky had revealed himself as a wiseass, a slouching, mangy specimen of Eurotrash with long greasy hair, ripped T-shirts, and a pubic clump of beard clinging to his chin. He looked more like a drug addict than a brilliant software engineer. But then, a lot of them were like that.
Another measured ticking of the clock.
"Beams aligned and focused," said Rae Chen. "Luminosity fourteen TeV."
"Isabella work fine," said Volkonsky.
"My systems are all green," said Cecchini, the particle physicist.
"Security, Mr. Wardlaw?"
The senior intelligence officer, Wardlaw, spoke from his security station. "Just cactus and coyotes, sir."
"All right," said Hazelius. "It's time." He paused dramatically. "Ken? Bring the beams into collision."
Dolby felt a quickening of his heart. He touched the dials with his spiderlike fingers, adjusting them with a pianist's lightness of touch. He followed with a series of commands rapped into the keyboard.
The huge flat-panel screens all around suddenly woke up. A sudden singing noise seemed to float in the air, coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.
"What's that?" Mercer asked, alarmed.
"A trillion particles blowing through the detectors," said Dolby. "Sets up a high vibration."
"Jesus, it sounds like the monolith in 2001."
Volkonsky hooted like an ape. Everyone ignored him.
An image appeared on the central panel, the Visualizer. Dolby stared at it, entranced. It was like an enormous flower — flickering jets of color radiating from a single point, twisting and writhing as if trying to tear free of the screen. He stood in awe at the intense beauty of it.
"Contact successful," said Rae Chen. "Beams are focused and collimated. God, it's a perfect alignment!"
Cheers and some ragged clapping.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said Hazelius, "welcome to the shores of the New World." He gestured to the Visualizer. "You're looking at an energy density not seen in the universe since the Big Bang." He turned to Dolby. "Ken, please increase power in increments of tenths to ninety-nine."
The ethereal sound increased slightly as Dolby worked on the keyboard. "Ninety-six," he said.
"Luminosity seventeen point four TeV," said Chen.
"Ninety-seven ... Ninety-eight."
The team fell into tense silence, the only sound now the humming that filled the underground control room, as if the mountain around them were singing.
"Beams still focused," said Chen. "Luminosity twenty-two point five TeV."
The sound from Isabella had become still higher, purer.
"Just a moment," said Volkonsky, hunching over the supercomputer workstation. "Isabella is ... slow."
Dolby turned sharply. "Nothing wrong with the hardware. It must be another software glitch."
"Software not problem," said Volkonsky.
"Maybe we should hold it here," said Mercer. "Any evidence of miniature black hole creation?"
"No," said Chen. "Not a trace of Hawking radiation."
"Ninety-nine point five," said Dolby.
"I'm getting a charged jet at twenty-two point seven TeV," said Chen.
"What kind?" asked Hazelius.
"An unknown resonance. Take a look."
Two flickering red lobes had developed on either side of the flower on the central screen, like a clown's ears gone wild.
"Hard-scattering," said Hazelius. "Gluons maybe. Might be evidence of a Kaluza-Klein graviton."
"No way," said Chen. "Not at this luminosity."
"Ninety-nine point six."
"Gregory, I think we should hold the power steady here," said Mercer. "A lot of stuff is happening all at once."
"Naturally we're seeing unknown resonances," Hazelius said, his voice no louder than the rest, but somehow distinct from them all. "We're in unknown territory."
"Ninety-nine point seven," Dolby intoned. He had complete confidence in his machine. He could take her to one hundred percent and beyond, if necessary. It gave him a thrill to know they were now sucking up almost a quarter of the juice from Hoover Dam. That was why they had to do their runs in the middle of the night — when power usage was lowest.
"Ninety-nine point eight."
"We've got some kind of really big unknown interaction here," said Mercer.
"What is problem, bitch?" Volkonsky shouted at the computer.
"I'm telling you, we're poking our finger into a Kaluza-Klein space," said Chen. "It's incredible."
Snow began to appear on the big flat panel with the flower.
"Isabella is behave strange," said Volkonsky.
"How so?" Hazelius said, from his position at the center of the Bridge.
Dolby rolled his eyes. Volkonsky was such a pain. "All systems go on my board."
Volkonsky typed furiously on the keyboard; then he swore in Russian and whacked the monitor with the flat of his hand.
"Gregory, don't you think we should power down?" asked Mercer.
"Give it a minute more," said Hazelius.
"Ninety-nine point nine," said Dolby. In the past five minutes, the room had gone from sleepy to bug-eyed awake, tense as hell. Only Dolby felt relaxed.
"I agree with Kate," said Volkonsky. "I not like the way Isabella behave. We start power-down sequence."
"I'll take full responsibility," said Hazelius. "Everything is still well within specs. The data stream of ten terabits per second is starting to stick in its craw, that's all."
"Craw? What means 'craw'?"
"Power at one hundred percent," said Dolby, a note of satisfaction in his laid-back voice.
"Beam luminosity at twenty-seven point one eight two eight TeV," said Chen.
Snow spackled the computer screens. The singing noise filled the room like a voice from the beyond. The flower on the Visualizer writhed and expanded. A black dot, like a hole, appeared at the center.
"Whoa!" said Chen. "Losing all data at Coordinate Zero."
The flower flickered. Dark streaks shot through it.
"This is nuts," said Chen. "I'm not kidding, the data's vanishing."
"Not possible," said Volkonsky. "Data is not vanish. Particles is vanish."
"Give me a break. Particles don't vanish."
"No joke, particles is vanish."
"Software problem?" Hazelius asked.
"Not software problem," said Volkonsky loudly. "Hardware problem."
"Screw you," Dolby muttered.
"Gregory, Isabella might be tearing the 'brane," said Mercer. "I really think we should power down now."
The black dot grew, expanded, began swallowing the image on the screen. At its margins, it jittered manically with intense color.
"These numbers are wild," said Chen. "I'm getting extreme space-time curvature right at CZero. It looks like some kind of singularity. We might be creating a black hole."
"Impossible," said Alan Edelstein, the team's mathematician, looking up from the workstation he had been quietly hunched over in the corner. "There's no evidence of Hawking radiation."
"I swear to God," said Chen loudly, "we're ripping a hole in space-time!"
On the screen that ran the program code in real time, the symbols and numbers were flying by like an express train. On the big screen above their heads, the writhing flower had disappeared, leaving a black void. Then there was movement in the void — ghostly, batlike. Dolby stared at it, surprised.
"Damn it, Gregory, power down!" Mercer called.
"Isabella not accept input!" Volkonsky yelled. "I lose core routines!"
"Hold steady for a moment until we can figure out what's going on," said Hazelius.
"Gone! Isabella gone!" said the Russian, throwing up his hands and sitting back with a look of disgust on his bony face.
"I'm still green across the board," said Dolby. "Obviously what you've got here is a massive software crash." He turned his attention back to the Visualizer. An image was appearing in the void, an image so strange, so beautiful, that at first he couldn't wrap his mind around it. He glanced around, but nobody else was looking: they were all focused on their various consoles.
"Hey, excuse me — anybody know what's going on up there on the screen?" Dolby asked.
Nobody answered him. Nobody looked up. Everyone was furiously busy. The machine sang strangely.
"I'm just the engineer," said Dolby, "but any of you theoretical geniuses got an idea of what that is? Alan, is that ... normal?"
Alan Edelstein glanced up from his workstation distractedly. "It's just random data," he said.
"What do you mean, random? It's got a shape!"
"The computer's crashed. It can't be anything but random data."
"That sure doesn't look random to me." Dolby stared at it. "It's moving. There's something there, I swear — it almost looks alive, like it's trying to get out. Gregory, are you seeing this?"
Hazelius glanced up at the Visualizer and paused, surprise blossoming on his face. He turned. "Rae? What's going on with the Visualizer?"
"No idea. I'm getting a steady blast of coherent data from the detectors. Doesn't look like Isabella's crashed from here."
"How would you interpret that thing on the screen?"
Chen look up and her eyes widened. "Jeez. I've no idea."
"It's moving," said Dolby. "It's, like, emerging."
The detectors sang, the room humming with their high-pitched whine.
"Rae, it's garbage data," Edelstein said. "The computer's crashed — how can it be real?"
"I'm not so sure it is garbage," said Hazelius, staring. "Michael, what do you think?"
The particle physicist stared at the image, mesmerized. "It doesn't make any sense. None of the colors and shapes correspond to particle energies, charges, and classes. It isn't even radially centered on CZero — it's like a weird, magnetically bound plasma cloud of some kind."
"I'm telling you," said Dolby, "it's moving, it's coming out. It's like a ... Jesus, what the hell is it?" He closed his eyes hard, trying to chase away the ache of exhaustion. Maybe he was seeing things. He opened them. It was still there — and expanding.
"Shut it down! Shut Isabella down now!" Mercer cried.
Suddenly the panel filled with snow and went dead black.
"What the hell?" Chen cried, her fingers pounding the keyboard. "I've lost all input!"
A word slowly materialized in the center of the panel. The group fell into silence, staring. Even Volkonsky's voice, which had been raised in high excitement, lapsed as if cut off. Nobody moved.
Then Volkonsky began to laugh, a tense, high-pitched laugh, hysterical, desperate.
Dolby felt a sudden rage. "You son of a bitch, you did this."
Volkonsky shook his head, flapping his greasy locks.
"You think that's funny?" Dolby asked, getting up from the workstation with clenched fists. "You hack a forty-billion-dollar experiment and you think it's funny?"
"I not hack anything," said Volkonsky, wiping his mouth. "You shut hell up."
Dolby turned and faced the group. "Who did this? Who messed with Isabella?" He turned back to the Visualizer and read out loud the word hanging there, spat it out in his fury. GREETINGS.
He turned back. "I'll kill the bastard who did this."CHAPTER 2
Wyman Ford gazed around the 17th Street office of Dr. Stanton Lockwood III, science adviser to the president of the United States. From long experience in Washington, Ford knew that while an office was designed to show the outer man, the public man, it always betrayed somewhere the secret of the inner man. Ford cast his eyes about, looking for the secret.
The office was done up in that style Ford called IWPB — Important Washington Power Broker. The antiques were all authentic and of the finest quality — from the Second Empire desk, as big and ugly as a Hummer, to the gilded French portico clock and the hushed Sultanabad rug on the floor. Nothing that hadn't cost a bloody fortune. And of course, there was the obligatory "power wall" of framed diplomas, awards, and photographs of the office's occupant with presidents, ambassadors, and cabinet members.
Stanton Lockwood wanted the world to see him as a man of importance and wealth, powerful and discreet. But what came through to Ford was the grimness of the effort. Here was a man determined to be something he wasn't.
Lockwood waited until his guest was seated before he eased himself into the armchair flanking the other side of a coffee table. He crossed his legs and smoothed a long white hand down the crease in his garbardine pants. "Let's dispense with the usual Washington formalities," he said. "I'm Stan."
"Wyman." He settled back and observed Lockwood: handsome, late fifties, with a hundred-dollar haircut, his fitness-club physique beautifully draped in a charcoal suit. Probably a squash player. Even the photo on the desk of three perfect towheaded children with their attractive mother had all the individuality of a financial-services advertisement.
"Well," said Lockwood, in a meeting-now-under-way tone, "I've heard excellent things about you, Wyman, from your former colleagues at Langley. They're sorry you left."
Excerpted from Blasphemy by Douglas Preston. Copyright © 2007 Splendide Mendax, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Douglas Preston is the New York Times bestselling author of Tyrannosaur Canyon. He is also the co-author with Lincoln Child of the famed Pendergast series of novels, including such bestselling titles as The Book of the Dead and The Wheel of Darkness, as well as Relic, which was made into a #1 box office hit movie. His other solo novels include Jennie, made into a movie by Disney, and The Codex.
“Every time I write, I take a journey to a far away place.”—Douglas Preston
Scott Sowers is an accomplished actor of both stage and screen. He has narrated numerous audiobooks by such authors as Douglas Preston, Robert Ludlum, John Hart, and Nicholas Sparks.
- Place of Birth:
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- B.A., Pomona College, 1978
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