It's been a decade since Bill DeSmedt's debut thriller, "Singularity," was published. I still get goose bumps just thinking about the premise: A tiny black hole, the remnant of the Big Bang, turns out to be the object that crashed to Earth in 1908. That historic event has generated plenty of scientific theorizing, controversy, and even crackpot explanations (it was a UFO! Really!!), but given the nature and scale of the event -- there was no impact crater, but the blast was a thousand times more powerful than the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. In DeSmedt's telling, the Tunguska Event was only the beginning: It's up to unorthodox consultant Jonathan Knox and security agent Marianna Bonaventure to unravel the international conspiracy that's grown up around the event.
Now Knox and Bonaventure are back, working together (and, at times, at cross-purposes) in DeSmedt's follow-up, "Dualism." (Now that there is a sequel, both books have picked up a subtitle: "The Archon Sequence.") DeSmedt returns to the mixture that made the first book so interesting -- a blend of on-the-horizon technology and big ideas, together with the most straightforward of love stories as a subplot (even if, in this instance, the romance gets pretty knotted up).
There's also a mystery to be solved, and that's how Knox gets drawn in. The young daughter of a powerful technocrat goes missing; her disappearance seems all but impossible. When Knox cracks the question of where she's gone, the larger issue remains of who took her, and why. The answers to those questions fill the novel's 456 pages, as the high-concept plot jolts along at top speed.
Think James Bond crossed with Michael Crichton, but with a healthy dash of Dan Brown. There's an evil henchman, a squad of Russian KGB types for hire, and plenty of jet-around-the-map action; there's also a major role for an artificial intelligence named Nietzsche, a lot of fairly complex higher-order physics (I don't know if the technological outcomes DeSmedt envisions arise tidily, or plausibly, from quantum physics, but he makes it all sound good), and a whole lot of debate about what constitutes a living, conscious mind. It's as though DeSmedt foresaw the current controversy about quantum computing (is it real? Is it happening?) and timed the new book to land in the middle of it.
Readers speeding through "Dualism" are likely to feel as though they are reading the thriller of tomorrow: In addition Nietzsche, there are medical nanites, special combat suits made from "metamaterial," and a perennially-timely reference to a dangerous, anti-Western stain of Islam. Prepare to have your mind uploaded, teleported, and pretty much blown - just as DeSmedt did ten years ago with his first edge-of-your-seat, into-tomorrow novel.
"Dualism," by Bill DeSmedt
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Per Aspera Press
Trade Paperback: $18.95