Spiral

( 29 )

Overview

In this riveting debut thriller—a finalist for Best First Novel at the 2012 Thriller Awards and a nominee for a Nero Award—the race is on to stop the devastating proliferation of the ultimate bioweapon. Spiral is perfect for fans of Michael Crichton, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, and Richard Preston.

When Nobel laureate Liam Connor is found dead at the bottom of one of Ithaca, New York’s famous gorges, his research collaborator, Cornell professor of nanoscience Jake ...

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Spiral

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Overview

In this riveting debut thriller—a finalist for Best First Novel at the 2012 Thriller Awards and a nominee for a Nero Award—the race is on to stop the devastating proliferation of the ultimate bioweapon. Spiral is perfect for fans of Michael Crichton, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, and Richard Preston.

When Nobel laureate Liam Connor is found dead at the bottom of one of Ithaca, New York’s famous gorges, his research collaborator, Cornell professor of nanoscience Jake Sterling, refuses to believe it was suicide. Why would one of the world’s most eminent biologists, a eighty-six-year old man in good health who survived some of the darkest days of the Second World War, have chosen to throw himself off a bridge? And who was the mysterious woman caught on camera at the scene? Soon it becomes clear that a cache of supersophisticated nanorobots—each the size of a spider—has disappeared from the dead man’s laboratory.

Stunned by grief, Jake, Liam’s granddaughter, Maggie, and Maggie’s nine-year-old son, Dylan, try to put the pieces together. They uncover ingeniously coded messages Liam left behind pointing toward a devastating secret he gleaned off the shores of war-ravaged Japan and carried for more than sixty years.

What begins as a quest for answers soon leads to a horrifying series of revelations at the crossroads of biological warfare and nanoscience. At this dangerous intersection, a skilled and sadistic assassin, an infamous Japanese war criminal, and a ruthless U.S. government official are all players in a harrowing game of power, treachery, and intrigue—a game whose winner will hold the world’s fate literally in the palm of his hand.

Winner of the 2012 Thriller Award for Best First Novel

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance praise for Spiral
 
Spiral by Paul McEuen carries the reader on a fascinating ride through a world of bioweaponry, nanoscience, murder, and international intrigue. This gripping story, partially based on Unit 731, the biological warfare group of the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II, is one of the best debut thrillers I’ve read in a long time.”—Douglas Preston, author of Impact and The Monster of Florence
 
Spiral is an all-too-frighteningly-real tale. This is an exciting debut.”—Steve Berry, author of The Emperor’s Tomb
 
“A riveting story that combines international intrigue with fascinating inventions such as the MicroCrawler, a  spiderlike robot with knife-sharp legs. In more ways than one, Spiral will get under your skin.” —Mark Alpert, author of Final Theory
 
“Fast-paced and suspenseful . . . McEuen, a leader in nanoscience research at Cornell, makes unsettling use of recent developments in the field. . . . After you’ve finished the book, try not hearing [the MicroCrawlers] go tink tink tink in the night. . . . exciting and unsettling."—Kirkus Reviews

“It’s hard to reckon with the realization that a prominent scientist in a cutting-edge field, writing his first novel in his “spare time,” has created what may be the most gripping and engrossing thriller this reviewer has ever read in almost 50 years of thriller reading…[Paul McEuen] wisely writes about what he knows…but also shows a true gift for plotting, pace, characterization, and writerly clarity…and remarkably, he makes [his] ideas accessible to typical thriller aficionados.  A stunning achievement.”
 – Booklist, starred review

Kirkus Reviews

A Nobel Prize–winning science professor and his protégé must fend off a sophisticated lady assassin or lose a spore-producing bio-weapon that could kill millions.

Liam Connor, an Irish native, is a decorated fungus expert at Cornell. During World War II, when he was a chemical and germs weapon researcher in England, he was summoned to theUSS North Dakotato interrogate a Japanese prisoner who was part of a chilling bio-warfare project. After secretly experimenting on scores of unsuspecting Japanese, his team perfected the fungus-based Uzumaki weapon. It was so lethal and fast-spreading that the United States dropped a nuclear bomb to destroy the last Japanese submarine carrying it. Flash forward 60-plus years. Connor, who secretly made off with the prisoner's small brass cylinder containing the last Uzumaki, has been working on an antidote to the weapon, which makes victims go mad and uncontrollably violent before causing fatal internal hemorrhaging. Abducted and tortured by the techno-brilliant assassin, Orchid, he leaps to his death to protect his granddaughter Maggie and 9-year-old great-grandson Dylan. The role of their protector is then taken on by Connor's young colleague Jake, who has eyes for Maggie. The notion of the world's fate resting on the efforts of this threesome is hard to swallow. And why does the assassin, who wastes no time killing other targets, not quickly dispatch Jake? Still, this is a fast-paced and suspenseful first novel, and in other ways as frighteningly plausible as UFOs. McEuen, a leader in nanoscience research at Cornell, makes unsettling use of recent developments in the field. Tiny robotic MicroCrawlers are used to inflict torture. After you've finished the book, try not hearing them gotink tink tinkin the night.

An exciting and unsettling, if sometimes incredible, doomsday novel.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385342117
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 667,956
  • Product dimensions: 9.38 (w) x 6.34 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul McEuen is the Goldwin Smith Professor of physics at Cornell University. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the Agilent Technologies Europhysics Prize, a Packard Fellowship, and a Presidential Young Investigator Award. He lives with his wife and five dogs in Ithaca, New York.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Chilling Look at a New Threat to What We Know!

    This is another scary technological thriller. It is scary because the author makes it almost inevitable that something similar to this is bound to happen in the near future. An aged scientist (Liam) who studies fungi seems to commit suicide jumping off a bridge. Further investigation indicates that he died as the result of running away from a mysterious Asian woman (codenamed Orchid) and not an actual suicide. His granddaughter Maggie and one of his technical assistants, Jake determine that maybe his death had something to do with his work.

    Everything seems to lead back to a biological fungus based weapon that he had attained at the end of WW II. It seems that this weapon may pose a modern day threat and the introduction of microbots (insect-like microsized robots). Liam left behind some clues to Jake and Maggie as to what he has been working on all the years since WW II and it is up to Jake and Maggie with the help of Maggie's son Dylan to find out.

    The National Security Agency also has an interest in Liam's death and piece together that the country is facing one of its greatest threats ever. They need to locate both Jake and Maggie to prevent a biological disaster from taking down the country. Jake and Maggie are also being pursued by the deadly Orchid and most not only solve Liam's riddles but must stay out of her clutches.

    The story builds in intensity to a very tense climax. The book is a fast read and even when you finish you start to think about how what is depicted in the book can actually happen! Extremely thought provoking and a scary look at the near future.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2011

    First-rate Technothriller

    Paul McEuen has written a terrific technothriller marrying nanotechnology with biowarfare in a most chilling way. His personal background as Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics at Cornell gives his work tremendous legitimacy. His writing is crisp and well structured. It is rare when my stress level actually goes up when I am reading. There is no question that Spiral had that effect on me numerous times. While disturbing, it was nevertheless a great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Scary in its conceivability!

    Short Version An enthralling debut thriller whose plot spans almost seventy years, two continents, and the life of a bioterrorism threat. Long Version I really hate over-hyped books. They invariably disappoint. As soon as I read a friend's review of this one, I knew that this was one of those drop-everything-else-on-my-reading-list-and-read-this-now kind of books. It just had me written all over it. My favorite thrillers are generally those involving international politics and relations. This one combined those aspects with biology and nanotechnology and produces as a result an intellectual adrenaline rush. Crafting a plot for a thriller requires that tricky balance of pacing and credibility-and credibility is often stretched to keep up the pace. Many times a thriller has left me flat because the plot was simply not believable. Not so here. Due to the excellent descriptions of the biological and technological elements involved, this one is downright unsettling. I had no trouble envisioning the events unfolding on today's world stage. It has been a long time since a book has drawn me in so completely. I started this one in a waiting room yesterday afternoon, read in fits and starts (think drive-through line and dance class), and until NyQuil had me nodding off at bedtime. Today I read between assisting on math problems, cursive, and reading picture books (we homeschool), finishing during our lunch break. Generally, I do not read during the day, but this book was unputdownable. This book should appeal to a very large audience. The plot was not at all bogged down despite the hefty dose of science, the characters were well developed and evolved as the plot moved forward, and even the settings were easily visualized. I hope that Paul McEuen's day job as a physics professor and researcher at Cornell University do not impede the publication of his next novel. He will, I have no doubt, have a number of readers watching his web page in anticipation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    strong bio-weapons thriller

    In Ithaca, New York, everyone at Cornell University is stunned when octogenarian emeritus Professor of Biology Liam Connor commits suicide. The Nobel Prize winner in nano-science and nano-robotic technology seemed contented in his role of elder statesmen and mentor. Especially shocked by his death is his family including his granddaughter Maggie and his academic partner Professor Jake Sterling; neither had seen it coming.

    The pair has no time to grieve when an autopsy reveals that silicon metallic micro-robots were implanted in the stomach of the victim. Maggie and Jake know their hero did not kill himself, but was apparently murdered to probably cover up his being tortured. Meanwhile as Connor's granddaughter and the professor struggle with his enigmatic messages from the grave, someone plans to release a biological doomsday bomb with ties to the WWII Japanese Imperial Army bio-weapons development Unit #731.

    Spiral contains a strong story line that starts off as an amateur sleuth homicide investigation that evolves into a bio-weapons thriller with a genuine historical link. Fast-paced from start to finish, the keys are the college setting and the relationships between the lead couple and with the deceased that brings the sense of urgency to the action-packed story line with time running out echoing the final scene in Fail Safe when Manhattan is bombed.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good bio/techno thriller

    Spiral is a well-crafted bio/techno thriller. It ranges from the end of World War II to the present day. Liam Connor is an interesting protagonist. An 80 plus year old nobel laureate who works with fungus. The fact that you come to care about him and his family and colleagues as much as you do is a testament to good writing. Like any good thriller, it is a real page-turner. It's not heavy on the action, but the action sequences that do occur are done well. The real tension comes from the growing bio-threat and the attempts to unravel clues and find the solution. The characters are developed well enough to keep you invested in what happens to them. The motivations of some of the characters remain a little murky, even at the end, but not enough to detract from the story. Given that the subject matter involves both bioterrorism as well as nanotech, there is the occasional techno-babble, but not so much that it slows you down. It is a quick, fun read with some really interesting ideas.

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  • Posted May 18, 2011

    (Downward)Spiral

    Breathless pull-quotes not withstanding, Spiral was a disappointment, more on the order of a James Bond plot than the gritty thriller I was led to expect.

    There's great source material here, with nanotechnology, WWII bioweapons research, and a hint of zombie chic, but the whole is depressingly shallow, with cookie cutter characters and nothing more than a gloss of tech.

    The bad guys are cartoonishly bad: a long imprisoned Japanese scientist captured at the end of WWII who engineers a Machiavellian plot to destroy the West from his prison cell, using his hired Chinese ninja, unimaginatively named Orchid.

    Orchid continues the Bond villain stereotype, just to make sure you get the point that she's one of the bad guys, delighting in killing innocent bystanders and reveling in torture.

    She's opposed by an ex-soldier turned nanotech researcher, who is able to identify a bomb by its LED countdown display, and engage in action movie feats of athleticism in order to save the woman he probably loves, just in time for her to save her son, who is infected by a deadly fungal bio-agent, one that turns its victims into psychotic killers before they expire.

    The action in this story would have you laughing out loud if you saw it on the big screen; here it's just depressing. If you want a good infectious disease thriller, go back to Preston's "Hot Zone", or rent 28 Days Later. If you want a creepier, more speculative take on the fungal threat, I highly recommend Jeff Van der Meer's "Finch".

    This is a spiral that goes nowhere.

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    Posted February 19, 2012

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    Posted April 11, 2011

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    Posted April 1, 2011

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    Posted June 19, 2011

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    Posted August 30, 2011

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    Posted April 29, 2011

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    Posted July 13, 2011

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    Posted May 28, 2011

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    Posted May 11, 2011

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    Posted May 18, 2011

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    Posted July 12, 2011

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    Posted September 14, 2011

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    Posted July 19, 2011

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