Murder in the Solid State

Murder in the Solid State

by Wil McCarthy


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Murder in the Solid State by Wil McCarthy

David Sanger, an ambitious young physicist, attends a party at which a pompous older scientist, who just happens to have thrwarted the younger man's innovative ideas, is murdered. Suddenly it is not just David's career, but his life that is at stake. Are his ideas that important? Who's out to stop David from changing the world?

"Exceptionally good. Besides being an excellent mystery, it is a convincing look at the near future of nanotechnology."
-Vernor Vinge

"McCarthy deftly blends the SF and mystery genres with a healthy dose of paranoia to create a fast, completely engrossing thriller."
-Monica Simmons, Locus

"The pacing is brisk. McCarthy offers memorable characters, and manages to tell an enjoyable and imaginative tale of social and technological speculation without loading on the hardware."
-Publishers Weekly

"A fast-moving adventure yarn. McCarthy deftly mixes the action story with a strong background of science."
-Fred Cleaver, The Denver Post

"Breathless... Its striking quality is not so much the fascinating science as the canny use of hardboiled prose and keen sense of pacing. Any author with the knack for tight, vivid writing and good SF mystery in an often clueless field should be applauded."
-Charles DeLint, F&SF

"An interesting murder mystery involving nanotechnology, political intrigue, virtual reality and industrial espionage. McCarthy manages to squeeze quite a lot into a relatively small package, including some telling social commentary."
-Michael Wolff, Starlog
About the Author

Engineer/Novelist/Journalist/Entrepreneur Wil McCarthy is a former contributing editor for WIRED magazine and science columnist for the SyFy channel (previously SciFi channel), where his popular "Lab Notes" column ran from 1999 through 2009. A lifetime member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, he has been nominated for the Nebula, Locus, Seiun, AnLab, Colorado Book, Theodore Sturgeon and Philip K. Dick awards, and contributed to projects that won a Webbie, an Eppie, a Game Developers' Choice Award, and a General Excellence National Magazine Award. In addition, his imaginary world of "P2", from the novel LOST IN TRANSMISSION, was rated one of the 10 best science fiction planets of all time by Discover magazine. His short fiction has graced the pages of magazines like Analog, Asimov's, WIRED, and SF Age, and his novels include the New York Times Notable BLOOM, "Best of Y2K" THE COLLAPSIUM (a national bestseller) and, most recently, TO CRUSH THE MOON. He has also written for TV, appeared on The History Channel and The Science Channel, and published nonfiction in half a dozen magazines, including WIRED, Discover, GQ, Popular Mechanics, IEEE Spectrum, and the Journal of Applied Polymer Science. Previously a flight controller for Lockheed Martin Space Launch Systems and later an engineering manager for Omnitech Robotics, McCarthy is now the president and Chief Technology Officer of RavenBrick LLC in Denver, CO, a developer of smart window technologies. He lives in Colorado with his family.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781507540039
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 01/14/2015
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)

Read an Excerpt


It was the sort of night in which careers were built or broken, in which connections were made that, with the ponderous inexorability of scientific advancement, would alter the course of human affairs It was the sort of night David Sanger would kill for. The hum of the elevator seemed to echo his own nervous energy, his anticipation of the reception that waited below.

A bunch of old farts puffing and posturing at each other, Marian had warned when he'd tried to invite her along. My theory is better than your theory, blah, blah, blah. She'd spoken in the deep mock-masculine tone she reserved for satirizing academics in general and, when she felt he needed it, David himself in particular. Molecular fabrication is important, he'd countered some what irately You could cover it for the Bulletin. Your readers should know more about what we're doing. But she'd just laughed at that, and launched into a dry narration of what she thought such an article might sound like.

Annoyed at the memory, David glared across the elevator car at his own face, reflected back at him through the ripply burnished brass of the doors. Dummy He knew the excitement of his work, felt it fresh every morning as he pedaled to the U of Phil campus, his mind snapping and buzzing with solutions to the problems of the previous day But he could not express this feeling to Marian, and after two years of staccato romance he should know better than to try.

Have a nice time, she'd said by way of mollification. And stay away from Vandegroot, hey?

Easy for her to say Big Otto's grudge was like a force of nature, everywhere at once and impossible to quell. Henry Chong, David's faculty sponsor, would of course shield him as best he could, but David did not like the dependence that implied.

The floor indicator, counting slowly but steadily downward, floated above the reflection of his face—green holographic numerals that stood out from the wall, hovering above the door with an inch or two of air between them and the gloss-black projector plate. Something was not quite right with the numbers; solid-looking and yet less substantial than mist, they jarred the eye, like the view through someone else's glasses. Immature technology, David thought, rushed to production for the luxury markets He shrugged Costume jewelry for buildings, a tiny and irrelevant victory of glitz over substance David thought of himself as a substance man, willing to let the little victories go.

Presently, the floor indicator clicked down to 04, and then to 03. His stomach began to feel a little heavier as the car slowed. His eyes studied the green, misfocused letters for a moment, at once drawn and repelled by their strangeness. He considered himself well informed even outside the narrow discipline of molecular fabrication, and yet he had not known that synthetic holography had progressed so far, that real-world applications like this existed.

So much news every day, so much crime and unemployment, so many protests and plane crashes and little countries going to war, so much damn stuff going on, you had to filter it if you ever wanted to leave the house. But how to pick and choose? In what ways might the world be changing, behind his back? The question troubled him for half a moment, but then the floor indicator went to LOBBY and a chime rang out, quietly startling in this close and quiet chamber.

The brass doors slid open with lazy grandeur, and, like Dorothy stepping from her dichromatic Kansas porch to the Technicolor vistas of Oz, David left the elevator and strode out into the cavernous spaces of the lobby. White ceilings high above him, skylights alternating with haute couture fixtures that cast warm rays all around Marble pillars held it up, brass-shod at their bases. The black-and-red carpet sank beneath his feet like a paving layer of marshmallow.

Dodging potted ferns and knots of well-dressed strangers, David made his way to the entrance of the grand ballroom, some fifty paces distant He walked for once without hurry, taking in the view he had earlier ignored This was a far cry from his normal accommodations, and he didn't mind taking a moment or two just to appreciate it. He reached the ballroom.

The line at the security detectors was not long; David had come down a little early, both to beat the rush and to quell his own restlessness He'd been to AMFRI conferences before, but this time around he had patents to brag about, papers to present, colleagues and contacts with whom to rub elbows. This time around he was no mere observer. He also had Vandegroot, the Sniffer King, to worry about, yes, but this did little to dampen his enthusiasm.

Half a dozen people were cycled efficiently through the security system ahead of him, each taking no more than a few seconds. Then his turn came, and he stepped through the doorwaylike frame and into the short false-wood tunnel of the detector itself. Feeling, as always, the prickly and entirely hallucinatory sensation of "being scanned." In fact, in the soft fluorescent light the detector was harmlessly and invisibly flashing his body with radio waves, imaging it magnetically and positronically, sniffing it for traces of suspicious chemicals. Using a Vandegroot Molecular Sniffer for this task, of course, and all the more humiliating for that.

Like Big Otto himself, the machine seemed more interested in impugning your background than protecting your safety; it sniffed not only for explosives and tear gas and gunpowder residue, but for a broad range of other chemicals, from drugs to machine oils to smuggled perfumes, and what in God's name did that have to do with the security of an AMFRI reception?

His eye caught something in the dim light, and he turned to see a graffito scribbled low on one wall, in bright orange ink. A drawing, a deadly accurate caricature of Otto Vandegroot, roly-poly and with grossly enlarged nostrils and a caption beneath: you are being sniffed. please bend over.

A wave of snickering swept David's discomfort aside. Whoever had done this had chutzpah for sure, and judging by the freshness of the ink, he or she was an AMFRI scientist, and not long gone. Still snickering, and wishing he could have done the deed himself, David shook his head and stepped out of the detector.

He was greeted, almost immediately, by giants.

Copyright © 1996 by Wil McCarthy

What People are Saying About This

Jack McDevitt

Will McCarthy fulfills the promise of his earlier works with Murder in the Solid State. A taut, near-future thriller with a dash of chandler.

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