Blasphemy & Contest



The computer blew up. So I read some books.

The first novel I read was Douglas Preston’s Blasphemy. It was published in 2008.

The quick synopsis is:  The world’s biggest supercollider, locked in an Arizona mountain, was built to reveal the secrets of the very moment of creation: the Big Bang itself.  It is the most expensive machine ever created by humankind, run by the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It is the brainchild of Nobel Laureate William North Hazelius. Will the machine divulge the mysteries of the creation of the universe? Or will it, as some predict, suck the earth into a mini black hole? Or is it a Satanic attempt, as a powerful televangelist decries, to challenge God Almighty on the very throne of Heaven?

Well, I find the supercollider stuff interesting. (I like particle physics.) I also tend to “research” religion.  So, after buying the book at a library book sale for $1.00, I was all set to read it (with ample time due to the computer death of ’09).  This was the first book by Preston that I attempted to read – I have not read (though I own) the Preston & Child novels.

Its a fairly quick read. It takes place in Arizona and a large portion of the novel attempts to situate the story among native americans (Navajo).  I am not all that interested in (a.) Arizona; (b.) native american culture. So, I plodded through those parts. The story was pretty good, I suppose, but just not great. It could have had a lot more science and a lot less native american. There are some scenes that would be great for a movie – for example, the religious fundamentalist fanatics converging on the supercollider grounds would be an awesome sight. Still, it was pretty obvious what the outcome of the story would be. Too obvious. Its easy to guess who’s going to do what and where and how and why.  I didn’t build any affinity toward the main character. There is a strong suggestion that religion and politics tend to feed off of each other and stalemate science, but as for “ripping the toga off of God” – not so much. Its not a controversial novel.

2 stars



The other book I read before the resurrection of the computer was Contest by Matthew Reilly.  The back reads:
Dr. Stephen Swain has found himself locked in the after-hours darkness of the New York Public Library. It isn’t a mistake. He’s been entombed in the historic sanctuary for a reason—as the guest of an unknown host, chosen for a night of fun and games. He’s unprepared. He’s afraid. And he’s not alone. Six other contestants roam the black halls, room by room, floor by floor, in the dead silence. Each strapped with an explosive set to detonate should they escape before the night is over. The terms are simple: seven players enter—only one will leave.

I believe that this is Reilly’s first novel. It was published by Macmillan in 2000. He purposefully writes action stories that are supposed to be fast-paced. For example, the main character’s wife is dead. We don’t learn anything else about her or her death or whatever so the story isn’t bogged down with irrelevant backstory. What the reader needs to know are just the facts that represent the play-by-play. And even though we do not develop any deep relationship-bond with any of the characters, the reader can still enjoy the plot. Unfortunately, there are some writing choices that don’t make much sense. Reilly focuses on about 3 of the 7 contestants. The other 4 are brief mentions, rare appearances, and drive-by events. This makes the reader wonder – if Reilly wanted to write a fast-paced book and only wanted to deal with 4 or 5 characters, why have so many contestants? Also, it annoyed me that the selection of the library for the place of the contest was random. I felt there should have been a reason given as to why it was selected over many other “labyrinths.”

None of the above really bothered me. What bothered me were the aliens. Yes. Aliens. So you think you’re reading something out of a true crime, police procedural, mystery novel – and then BAM! – aliens. And not a nice variety of them either. The contestants are all aliens and are nothing but beastly monsters. They aren’t really killers, they just maul their prey in bloodbaths. I wasn’t real happy to be reading sci-fi suddenly. I love sci-fi. But I didn’t pick a sci-fi book on purpose.

2 stars

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