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Ninth Day of Creation
Leonard Crane
Connection Books, 662 pages

Ninth Day of Creation
Leonard Crane
Leonard Crane trained as a physicist, and received his doctorate in quantum optics in 1993 from the University of Queensland, Australia. Ninth Day Of Creation is his first novel, penned after attending the California Institute Of Technology as a postdoctoral fellow. He now runs a small software company, while living in Pasadena, California.

Leonard Crane Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Marc Goldstein

One part Tom Clancy, one part Gregory Benford, Leonard Crane's debut, Ninth Day of Creation, successfully weaves cutting-edge scientific speculation into a political thriller with a propulsive, Byzantine plot. Wrapped in the package of a taut techno-thriller, the novel's core themes revolve around advancements in genetic engineering and their implications for medicine and biological warfare. Crane, a physicist with a doctorate in quantum optics, extrapolates his scientific speculations from current events; his projections are all the more compelling because they are based on actual research. (And he has the bibliography to prove it!)

A plot this complex defies summarization, but I'll give it a whack. It kicks off with a group of Chinese leaders rushing to cover-up a massive ecological disaster. Desperate to avert the collapse of their regime, they hatch a plan to divert the attention of their citizens and strike a blow against their enemies.

Half a world away, Richard Kirby, a biochemist at San Diego-based Immunological Technologies, plans to announce a major breakthrough in genetic therapy. Kirby's instant celebrity triggers a chain of events that draws him into the Chinese conspiracy. Before he knows it, Camilla Montoya, the president of Mexico, is lobbying him for access to his discovery. Kirby's wife falls ill with a mysterious disease and soon after both she and President Montoya go missing.

As Mexico plunges into political turmoil, China and the United States inch closer to war. To avert tragedy, Kirby must find Montoya and his wife, uncover the nature of her illness, and expose the dark figures behind the conspiracy. And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

I'm hardly qualified to comment on the accuracy of Crane's extrapolations, but his enthusiasm clearly glows in these sections. Crane takes great pleasure in detailing scientific breakthroughs, seamlessly weaving explanations into the narrative without appreciably slowing the pace of the plot. He goes to great lengths to support his speculations, citing experiments in similar fields of study, and providing "evidence" in the form of charts, graphs, and illustrations. For a humble layman like myself, the level of scientific discussion sometimes grew too sophisticated to follow. But fans of hard science fiction should appreciate Crane's in-depth knowledge of cutting-edge genetic science. With the recent mapping of the human genome, and the concomitant investment in biotech research, Crane's observations seem prophetic.

On the other hand, in the world of fiction, comprehensive scientific explication means nothing if you can't create likable characters. Fortunately, Crane never loses sight of his story's human angle. Naïve but curious, Richard Kirby makes a wonderful hero. Readers share Kirby's revelations as he navigates through a maze of deception and secrecy to discover the truth behind the conspiracy. Crane's female characters are particularly strong and even his villains emerge as three-dimensional characters with credible motives.

The massive amount of scientific detail reflects Crane's desire to create a sense of realism. When it comes to his story's plot, however, his reach exceeds his grasp. This complex political potboiler gets a bit far-fetched and certain events strain credulity. Tom Clancy fans should find themselves on familiar ground, though, and have an easier time suspending their disbelief. On a positive note, Crane does a superb job of structuring the multiple plotlines to build suspense. The political manoeuvring is enjoyably Machiavellian, and the military action is well-researched and convincing. Crane gets kudos for underplaying the action and largely avoiding gratuitous descriptions of violence.

Altogether, Ninth Day of Creation represents an impressive debut novel with many merits. Its suspenseful plot and sympathetic characters suck you in and keep you turning pages, while its thoughtful examination of genetic engineering gives your mind something to chew on. If you enjoy military techno-thrillers, and/or sophisticated science fiction you will find Ninth Day a uniquely entertaining and satisfying read.

Copyright © 2001 Marc Goldstein

Marc is the SF Site Games Editor and the principal contributor to the SF Site's Role Playing Department. Marc lives in Santa Ana, California with his wife, Sabrina and cat, Onion.

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