by Douglas Preston
Review by Mel Jacob
Forge Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765311054
Date: 08 January 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Bestselling author Douglas Preston's new novel Blasphemy combines the Antichrist, Armageddon, and the Second Coming into a heady mixture of science and religion in conflict. His hero, Wyman Ford, an ex-CIA agent and now a private investigator, is hired by Stanton Lockwood, science adviser to the U. S. president, to learn why the Isabella Project, a $40 billion supercollider, hasn't achieved operation. Ostensibly, Ford is to smooth relations with the Native Americans, but also to discover what the closed community is doing. A suicide of one scientist complicates matters and some call it murder.
Located on a remote part of the Navajo reservation in Arizona, the project and its scientists remain a mystery to local inhabitants. The scientists converted the Red Mesa, once mined for coal and honeycombed with tunnels and galleries, into a supercollider of monumental proportions. They hope to recreate the Big Bang and produce cheap energy. Because an old Indian burial site also sits on the mesa, the Navajos schedule a protest ride against Isabella.
Meanwhile, a televangelist looking for an issue sees the project as a way to gain funds and adherents. He enlists the help of a half-crazed preacher who runs a small mission on the reservation. His efforts fuel many to join the protest and to swamp Internet email systems.
The president who sponsored Isabella is running for re-election and can't afford any scandal tied to the project. If Isabella fails, he'll lose his bid to retain the presidency. When communication with the scientists crashes, he calls on the National Guard and the military to solve the problem.
Echoes of Close Encounters abound. Crowds lead to riots and many die, including soldiers, fundamentalists, and scientists. Isabella could threaten the very survival of Earth.
An action-packed and fast-paced novel, some will argue with the science and others with stereotypes, but Preston gives the reader little time to think or to analyze. He provides enough ambiguity to allow readers to draw their own conclusion.