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Blasphemy    by Douglas Preston order for
by Douglas Preston
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Hidden underground at Red Mesa, Arizona, is the United States government's top-secret program: Isabella. Essentially a circular tunnel, three hundred feet underground and forty-seven miles in circumference, Isabella circulates protons and antiprotons in opposite directions at almost the speed of light; when the particles are brought into collision, they duplicate energy levels not seen since the universe was a millionth of a second old. To describe it in less technical language, Isabella is a machine that promises to accomplish something monumental; as the project director claims, 'When Isabella is running, we're peering into the very moment of creation.' And that, of course, is part of the problem.

Other problems include political difficulties back in Washington DC (because of project delays at the Isabella site) and rising tensions among Navajo locals (because of the project's alleged desecration of sacred sites on Navajo land), which have reached explosive levels. Wyman Ford, a man with a background in anthropology and computers, has been dispatched to Red Mesa with an ostensibly simple task: find out the reasons for the delays and solve the area's public relations problems.

But Ford (also a former CIA operative) is hardly prepared for what he discovers when he begins looking into things at Red Mesa: The twelve-member Isabella team seems to be hiding something; a fundamentalist television evangelist (with the complicity of someone at Red Mesa) is determined to put an end to the project's blasphemous assault upon creationism; one of the more eccentric scientists at Red Mesa suddenly disappears; and in the midst of murderous assaults upon Ford's safety, the apocalyptic and violent dangers of Ford's assignment begin to reveal their true dimensions.

Then, as the team of scientists takes Isabella to full-power, Douglas Preston's Blasphemy explodes into a brilliantly provocative, enigmatic, and terrifying exploration of the mind-blowing and violent intersection of science and religion. This is, in fact, speculative fiction at its very best and, in addition to the book of Genesis, ought to be required reading for everyone!

(Reviewer's Postscript: My editor says that "3" is the highest rating allowed for any book. I've never done this before, but I must respectfully disagree with my editor on this one because a mere "3" is woefully insufficient for Blasphemy, an unforgettable and intriguing powerhouse.)

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