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The Last Sword Maker: Course of Empire #1    by Brian Nelson order for
Last Sword Maker
by Brian Nelson
Order:  USA  Can
Blackstone, 2019 (2018)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Brian Nelson's The Last Sword Maker is a compelling near future thriller, first in his Course of Empire series. Though the villain and the scientific talents are definitely over the top, I was glued to its pages, curious to see where the author would take this idea of a new arms race, based on 'a new breed of biological weapon', a nanovirus.

The story begins with a Tibetan genocide, thousands of bodies rushed into mass graves. It turns out not to be a disease outbreak, but rather the test of a biological weapon that kills those with specific genetic traits. Very concerned that the Chinese are close to developing a programmable virus with full replication capability, senior US government and military officials assign Rear Admiral James Curtiss the task of accelerating their own research - and making sure the US team wins the race, whatever the cost.

Young Eric Hill, about to complete his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Stanford, is recruited for the project and soon becomes a key team member. He becomes close to two other young scientists, Jane and Ryan. They make solid progress. Then, Eric and Ryan are kidnapped by the Chinese. Their fate seems sealed until a Tibetan agent takes a hand. Along the way, the post-human Inventor played a strong role - is he creator or destroyer?

We'll just have to wait for the next Course of Empire episode to find out. The author lays out an intriguing (and very scary) possibility that might well lie in mankind's future, in an account jam packed with highly improbable, but most entertaining, action.

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