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Peter Els is an eccentric, musically gifted genius who inadvertently becomes the target of government security forces and is forced to hit the road and hide. The novel maintains two tracks. The first traces Peter's past, from his early discovery of his innate intellectual gifts through his educational career and life as a composer of unique and largely unappreciated music. In his past life, Peter married a fellow artist, and they moved to the Boston area, had a daughter, and were happy, but the pressures of family life clashed with his inner artist, and the marriage broke up. The second track finds the 70-year-old Peter in the present, living a reclusive life in a small Pennsylvania college town, when a misunderstanding leads the police to his door. Peter has been experimenting with DNA alteration and disease-spreading bacteria in relation to music, which is what has the feds on full alert. VERDICT This latest from National Book Award winner Powers (The Echo Maker) is concerned with advanced scientific technologies and musical theory that allow the author to riff on arcane vocabularies, but the stories of the Elses and their friends provide another, more human dimension to this very well-written and philosophical work. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/13.]—James Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.