I'm not sure if it's the need to have art imitate life, or just enjoying the brainy side of a good story, but I really like reading science fiction type thrillers that deal with biology and genetics. It's such a fascinating subject to me, likely because in books it becomes a million times more exciting than real life. Last week, I read my first novel by author James Rollins and as impressive as his storytelling is, I'm even more enamored with his handling of science.
Veterinarian Lorna Polk is more than a little surprised when Jack Menard, a man from her past, shows up at her research facility in a border patrol helicopter asking for her help. Whisked off to examine the strange animals aboard an abandoned trawler, Lorna knows something odd is going on. The conjoined twin monkeys, featherless parrot, and cub of a saber-toothed cat all display heightened intelligence and evidence of genetic alterations.
From this intriguing start, the novel takes off at a whirlwind pace. First, the adult saber-toothed cat is loose in the Louisiana bayou. Then, it's up to Lorna and Jack to track down the people responsible for transporting the animals and discover the truth behind the strange subjects. Meanwhile, the minds - and hired guns - behind the genetically altered creatures will stop at nothing to recapture the animals and dispose of those who know their secrets.
As a reader, I'm a sucker for a great fast-paced action story; as a scientist, I love a genetic thriller done right. James Rollins' Altar of Eden had it all. I was really impressed at how accurate the concepts of biology were as they entwined into fiction in the story. High-tech science was explained in an every day manner while not coming across as being dumbed-down. Also, Dr. Lorna Polk - a veterinarian like Rollins himself - was a strong and intelligent heroine. She displayed realistic fear and emotion but was also action-oriented and determined at all the right moments. Overall, Altar of Eden was a smart thrill ride from beginning to end.
It's such public knowledge that it's hardly worth the confession, but I'm a huge science nerd. I'm curious though if non-sciencey people like these types of books. For the lab-coat geeks, do you like reading stories that play with scientific themes? For those that left chemistry back in the high school lab, do you ever read nerdy thrillers?