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3.6 3
by Ben Mezrich

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The techno-thriller genre's newest star, whom People  magazine likened to Michael Chrichton himself, unleashes in Reaper  the ultimate techno-killer -- a biological virus that's spread electronically.

In Boston, nine lawyers ona conference call suddenly convulse with pain, turn chalk white and die. In Vermont, a young woman watching her


The techno-thriller genre's newest star, whom People  magazine likened to Michael Chrichton himself, unleashes in Reaper  the ultimate techno-killer -- a biological virus that's spread electronically.

In Boston, nine lawyers ona conference call suddenly convulse with pain, turn chalk white and die. In Vermont, a young woman watching her favorite sitcom meets the same grisly fate, as does a group of sewer workers in Washington, D.C. Whatever has killed these people is spreading fast and the task of eradicating it falls to young virologist Samantha Craig and paramedic Nick Barnes, whose brilliant surgical career was ruined by a crippling hand injury.

When Nick and Samantha discover that the virus, named Reaper, is spread through TVs and PCs, they realize that the information superhighway will become a killing field, with tens of millions dead, unless they can root Reaper out. Their search employs a dazzling array of real-life wizardry, from Mylar body paint to Stealth helicopters to CIA-bred swarms of insects. At the core of Reaper's madness, they find a suavely megalomaniacal, up-from-the-slums, high-tech billionaire; and a high-powered cabal that will do anything to save the world from technology, even if that means annihilating the world.

Drawing on the latest medical and technological research and folding in deftly realized characters, Ben Mezrich crafts a relentless, page-turning tale that is at once cutting-edge and utterly believable.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The idea of an electronic killer virus that travels over a nationwide fiberoptic network jump-starts this new thriller by Mezrich, whose first book, Threshold, prompted People to liken him to Michael Crichton. But Reaper quickly loses steam under pedestrian prose and a barrage of characters cloned from other medical thrillers. Nick Barnes, a paramedic whose promising career as a heart surgeon was ended by a crippling hand injury, is called to a bizarre scene. Nine lawyers from a top Boston firm have been found dead in a conference room, their bodies bleached white and horribly contorted. A virus is suspected, which brings into the picture the gorgeous Dr. Samantha Craig, ostensibly an investigator with the Centers for Disease Control but really attached to a secret U.S. Army unit created to deal with killer bugs like the Ebola virus. Nick has a problem dealing with authority. He also lost his wife to AIDS (from a blood transfusion), so he knows a thing or two about viruses. Samantha had a much-loved, rebellious brother who died breaking rules; but she decides to let unruly Nick into her investigation and eventually into her life. Meanwhile, African American entrepreneur Marcus Teal, whose giant Telecon Industries has already put Microsoft's Bill Gates out of business, is getting ready to throw the switch on a system that will link every home in America to his new fiberoptic television network. We know very early that Teal's enigmatic assistant, Melora Parkridge, is behind the electronic virus, but it takes Nick and Samantha so long to catch up that turning the pages becomes a major effort.
Library Journal
Mezrich (Threshold, LJ 5/1/96) combines two currently hot topics, the Internet and killer viruses, in his new novel. Telecon Industries is about to revolutionize the information superhighway. Its Set-Top Boxes, provided free of charge to every household in America, will connect each television and personal computer to one all-encompassing network. Television programs on demand, interactive software, network banking, and more will be available in every homeunless, of course, a deadly computer virus that travels through the network's fiber-optic lines kills everyone first. Nick Barnes, a paramedic who was a surgeon before an accident destroyed one of his hands, and Samantha Craig, a supermodel-gorgeous scientist employed by U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, have fewer than three days to determine the origin of the virus before The Big Turn On, the event that will activate Telecon's computer network. Despite its somewhat plausible premise, Reaper never quite rings true because of its unbelievable characters and impossible situations. Not a necessary purchase. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/97.]Melissa Rockicki, NYPL

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.04(d)

Read an Excerpt

Mitch Thomas dug his fingers into the leather armrests of his Tudor-style chair, as the other eight partners took their seats. The mahogany table was at least twenty feet long, polished so severely that Mitch could see himself reflected in the wood. His nostrils looked grotesquely large, a product of the peculiar angle, and he quickly turned away. He was nervous—scared, actually—and his five-hundred-dollar shoes bounced against the egg-white marble floor.

This was Mitch's first time in the enormous board room. The Room—as the associates at Alistar, Brodney and Falk referred to it—was deliberately imposing: high, leather-lined bookshelves, original Renaissance oil paintings, an extravagant tangle of crystal posing as a chandelier. Mitch felt completely out of place, the butt of some vast, practical joke. Did he really belong in this place that reeked of money? Or was someone, somewhere staring at him on a TV screen, laughing his ass off? Mitch Thomas, hotshot corporate lawyer. Yeah, sure.

He shifted his eyes around the table, trying his best to ignore the thickening tension. He was the youngest man in the room by ten years, and he knew his appearance didn't help. Wild ruffles of California blond hair, a trim, muscular body—he should have been sitting on a beach somewhere, not cowering in the board room of one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston.

He crossed his legs under the table, feeling the sweat under his knees. Four-thirty in the morning, and he was trapped in the Room, sweating his way through a Brooks Brothers pinstriped suit. He should have been at home, his arms wrapped around Alison's burgeoning waist. Three more months andthe little turnip would finally pop out of there. Mitch would never say it to Alison's face—and risk a broken nose, or worse—but he couldn't wait to have her back to her normal, svelte self.

At least now, with the way his career was developing, they'd have the money for a nanny and a home gym. He smiled, spreading his fingers out against the mahogany, somewhat calmed by the cold smoothness of the wood. He had made partner barely two months ago—unexpectedly, but then, nobody had expected the accident that had taken the lives of three of the firm's biggest producers. Wind shear, pilot error—whatever the reason, at thirty-one Mitch had suddenly become the youngest partner in firm history. An office with a window, a new secretary, a hefty raise, and a four-thirty a.m. visit to the Room.

An important teleconference with a client in Washington, his secretary had explained. Mitch had almost canceled last night's touch football game to reflect on what that meant.

Washington. Mitch's stomach trembled, as his eyes shifted to the two senior partners sitting across the table from him. Michael Alistar had thick gray hair and an old-style charcoal suit; he looked like somebody's grandfather, his heavy lips ready to break into a smile at the slightest provocation. Next to him, Craig Brodney was his opposite: rail thin and angry, with ferret-like eyes and a permanently embedded frown.

Washington, and the presence of the two senior partners—there was no doubt, the teleconference had something to do with Client 297. Mitch had jumped right into the big leagues. Two months ago, he had been just another piddling associate, and now he was a partner who took teleconferences with Client 297.

As if on cue, the curved television screen squatting at the far end of the table suddenly flashed on, bathing the boardroom in cold blue light. The room went dead silent, all nine partners turning to stare at the glowing machine. Mitch laced his fingers together to keep them from trembling. He had never met Client 297, had never even heard his voice on a telephone. Rumor was only the senior partners dealt with him face to face. But everyone at the firm knew how much Client 297 was worth.

Billions. Not hundreds of millions, like the other corporate clients—the small computer companies and cable operators that were the firm's bread and butter. Client 297 was worth billions. Mitch sucked air through his teeth, thinking what he and Alison could do with just a tiny piece of that kind of money.

There was a sudden noise behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder. He spotted a janitor at the edge of the room, mop in hand. What the hell was he doing there? Brodney was going to have a fit if he noticed.

"All right, gentlemen," Alistar's thick voice interrupted, and Mitch turned his attention back to the table. "I don't have to remind you how important this client is to our firm. He's asked for this teleconference to get to know our partnership, before we enter into a new stage of our relationship—which I'll explain in greater detail after the meeting."

Mitch shifted his eyes back toward the television screen. The blue light started flickering; any moment Client 297 would appear. The anticipation was intense, and Mitch noticed that his heart was really racing. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself—and felt a sudden, tearing pain under his rib cage.

He gasped, his eyes going wide. The pain quickly went away, but now his heart was absolutely frantic, and he could feel the sweat breaking out across his forehead.

Christ, was he having a heart attack? He was in the best shape of his life. He worked out regularly, played in a half-dozen organized sports. And he was young—much too young for a heart attack. Maybe he had injured himself in the football game last night? He didn't remember getting hit, but the game had gone on for three hours. Then he and Alison had fulfilled their Sunday night quota of cautiously contorted, "pregnant couple" sex. Plenty of opportunity for injury.

He swallowed, trying to regain his composure. A torn muscle, that's what it had to be. Still, his heart was racing. He glanced across the table, inadvertently catching Brodney's eye. The senior partner was staring straight ahead, a strange expression on his face. Maybe he had noticed Mitch's discomfort. If so, he didn't seem happy about it, and Mitch was probably better off keeping it to himself. Client 297 was too important—

Suddenly, the pain was back, an umbrella of daggers spinning through Mitch's chest. His eyelids clamped shut. Christ, a heart attack, it had to be a heart attack! He dug his fingernails into the mahogany table and opened his mouth—but nothing came out. He couldn't get his lungs to work; he couldn't pull in air; his chest felt like it was full of concrete!

My god, my god, my god. His head started to spin. He was suffocating, and the pain was multiplying, spawning out from the center of his chest to his limbs. His muscles began to convulse and he felt his spine stiffening, his body arching back against the leather chair. Alison, god, Alison! Every inch of his being wanted to get out of that chair and out of that room and find her—but he couldn't get the commands to his body; he couldn't get past the immense pain. Something was turning him inside out and there was nothing he could do.

Why wasn't someone helping him? Where were the other partners? He used every ounce of willpower to force his eyelids up, up, up—

Christ. His stomach dropped and he knew immediately that he was going to die.

at seventy miles per hour, nothing is textbook. Nick Barnes braced his wide shoulders against an equipment cabinet as the sirens echoed through his skull. He could feel the tires screeching beneath him, each twist in the pavement tilting his world. His green surgical scrubs were soaking wet, and every inch of his six-foot-two, athletic frame ached from overuse. Even his impenetrable mop of unruly hair looked exhausted, plastered to his forehead by sweat and effort, a boyish gauntlet of thick dark curls.

"Time!" he shouted, leaning over the stretcher and inserting the thumb and middle finger of his gloved left hand into the patient's mouth.

"Twelve minutes," Charlie Pace answered from across the ambulance. Charlie's expression was grim, sweat beading above his overly round, deep-set blue eyes. Under pressure, his weathered face seemed as cracked and rough as tree bark, fierce creases outlining his puglike features.

"Not good," Nick answered. One-fifth of the "golden hour" was already gone, and Boston General was still twenty miles away. Despite the driver's heroics, it was going to be a close race. Every emergency specialist knew that a seriously injured patient had sixty minutes to make it to the OR—and this patient was beyond seriously injured.

They had ripped her out of her car's remains a few minutes past four in the morning—unconscious, in respiratory and cardiac collapse, with severe trauma to the face and chest. They had immediately opened her airway, gotten her breathing—barely—and jump-started her heart. Then they had locked a cervical collar around her neck and had rushed her into the ambulance. Now they had to keep her alive until they reached the hospital.

"Orotracheal intubation," Nick shouted, reaching for the intubation tube. His pulse was racing, and he could almost taste the adrenaline. Rivulets of sweat trickled over his high cheekbones, down across the angles of his prominent jaw. Because of the cervical collar and the extensive facial trauma, he was going to have to do the intubation blind—a tricky procedure, but nothing he hadn't done before.

Meet the Author

Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. Since then he has published twelve books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Accidental Billionaires, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film The Social Network, and Bringing Down the House, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies in twelve languages and became the basis for the Kevin Spacey movie 21. Mezrich has also published the national bestsellers Sex on the Moon, Ugly Americans, Rigged, and Busting Vegas. He lives in Boston.

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Reaper 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the wooden characters to the plot, this book was more silly than thrilling. Everything about it seems contrived, and there are huge gaps in logic that left me scratching my head. Perhaps the novel was better and was poorly edited for the abridged audio edition
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book you don't want to read before you go to bed. It had me up all night wondering 'what will happen next'! Ben Mezrich was able to mix science and technology together to make an ultimate killing virus. I couldn't put the book down. I love the ways Mezrich added all the clues up into one horrible man killing virus. I recommend reading this book. the description in this book is awesome.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is the ultimate book...I read it and love it. I love the virulogy unfolding with Medical science.