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Quantico
Greg Bear
Vanguard Press, 365 pages

Quantico
Greg Bear
Greg Bear was born in San Diego, California, in 1951. With a father in the navy, Greg Bear had travelled to Japan, the Philippines, Alaska and all over the US by the age of 12. At 15, he sold his first story to Famous Science Fiction and in 1979 he sold his first novel, Hegira, to Dell. His awards include Nebulas for his stories "Hardfought," "Blood Music" and "Tangents" and one for his novel, Moving Mars (1993), plus Hugos for his stories "Blood Music" and "Tangents." As an illustrator, Bear's artwork has appeared in magazines such as Galaxy and Fantasy & Science Fiction along with a number of hardcover and paperback books. He was a founding member of ASFA, the Association of Science Fiction Artists. He did the cover for his own novel, Psychlone, from Tor. Heavily involved with SFWA, Greg Bear co-edited the SFWA FORUM, chaired the SFWA Grievance Committee, served as VP for a year, and President for 2 years.

Greg Bear Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Darwin's Children
SF Site Review: W3: Women in Deep Time
SF Site Review: Eon
SF Site Review: Vitals
SF Site Review: Blood Music
SF Site Review: Darwin's Radio
SF Site Review: Slant
SF Site Review: Dinosaur Summer
SF Site Review: Foundation and Chaos

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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"No one of any importance in Iraq other than himself could remember seeing a pale blond American with the face of a warrior and eyes of two different colours. But there was always the plastic bag. And what was in it was true. Indeed, very true.

Al-Hitti had the powder examined then tested. It made five kidnapped Iraqi businessmen and two secretaries of the cleric ill and pitiable. In the dark, their lesions glowed first green and then red, so the doctors reported to people Al-Hitti knew.

An then they died, all of them."

Part techno-thriller, part predictive narrative, Quantico is set in a near future where the war against terror has come home to roost, on North American streets. A climate of fear pervades daily life, and the FBI are waging a stalled battle against home-grown malcontents, and the political system itself. Young FBI agents William Griffin, Fouad Al-Husam and classmate Jane Rowland are on the trail of a domestic threat; a genetically targeted plague, which if released could eliminate entire sectors of society. The trio enlist the help of veteran bio-terror expert, Rebecca Rose. What evolves is a thought-provoking, complex plot, involving a suitably brilliant foe and an scarily plausible scenario. Potential bio-Armageddon is just around the corner.

As always, Greg Bear's characters have depth and design. Agent Griffin is the son of a legend within the Bureau, and partly as a result of that pressure, has struggled his way through academy training. Only just avoiding being slung out on more than one occasion. Agent Al-Husam, a Muslim, gets to use his Arabic heritage on stealth missions in the Middle East. Jane Rowland, plays a comparatively minor role, but helps to stop this being a boys own novel. But it is the oddball team of Griffin, Al-Husam and the more experienced Rose around whom the story is built.

A man with mismatched eyes, (no, not David Bowie), is claiming the ability to manufacture a gene specific variant of anthrax, which would enable fanatics to commit selective genocide against their innate enemies. As usual, Bear's speculative science and characterisation are top notch stuff, very cinematic in style, but rarely stingy when it comes to credible background. For example, factional domestic politics are shown to inadvertently hamper the FBI's efforts, and his mad genius terrorist is imbued with a certain degree of sympathy. In other words, this is not a book for anyone of the "you're either with us or against us" mentality. Like the real world, Bear's creation is a lot more complicated than that, with every action creating a reaction. The Dome of the Rock is destroyed, and as a direct result there is another, 9/11 level attack on the United States. However, the threatened genetic plague has its origins in domestic terrorism, and a man who sees it as his duty to forcibly erase what political policy cannot.

Occasionally, the plot does seem to drag a little, but the intriguing arc of the story carried me through the dull spots. The idea of Western and Eastern extremists finding common cause is indeed chilling, and easy to believe. Bear's SF roots are evident, but at no point threaten to overwhelm the solid thriller theme. Scientific specifics are kept in the background when it comes to the mechanisms of the bio-tech threat, which according to Bear is something he did for security reasons. It's an explanation that made me rather uncomfortable, as anyone crazy enough to want to emulate the plot would surely Google major science sites long before they read this book. What bothers me is that if a writer as well-known and respected as Bear is self-censoring his fiction, how long will it be before anyone who does include the details is branded a terrorist sympathiser? Setting such concerns aside, Quantico is a quality work that sits well among Bear's previous titles. Personally, I preferred his seminal dark fantasy, most recently republished as Songs of Earth And Power, but that was then and this is now. If Bear wants to compete with the likes of Tom Clancy and Dan Brown, the evidence here is that he is up to the task.

Copyright © 2007 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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