weakness for a good thriller. There is nothing better than taking a break from the metaphor and metonymy of literary fiction for the the break-neck pace, disposable characters, hilariously bad dialogue and just general silliness of a good thriller (or "suspense-fiction," if you're not into that whole brevity thing).
And one of my favorite subgenres of thriller is those that are centered upon science. I've always been fascinated with science, which I realize is a bit at odds with my supposed right-brained literary thinking. I even majored in chemistry for a solid three semesters in college, before coming to my senses and switching to English. Not coincidentally, my GPA (as well as my beer consumption) jumped an entire point in a single semester.
But so, to be clear, I'm not talking about what's generally considered to be science fiction — novels by Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick about faraway places in future times. What I like is closer to the contemporary techno-thriller than to Star Wars. For instance, I'm reading a novel now you've no doubt not heard of. It's titled Final Theory, written by an editor for Scientific American magazine named Mark Alpert. Interestingly, Alpert has a bachelor's degree in astrophysics from Princeton and a MFA in poetry from Columbia.
Anyway, Final Theory assumes that Einstein was successful in developing his unified field theory — the so-called Theory of Everything that would marry quantum mechanics with general relativity — he spent the latter part of his life work on. But he kept it secret, telling only a few of his apprentices. And now, some really bad guys are trying to get their hands on it, presumably to do very bad things. Awesome, right?! Alpert's also published a sequel to Final Theory titled Omega Theory, which I can't wait to dive into after this one. So far, Final Theory is fantastic, in that unintentionally funny, but strangely entertaining way these thrillers are.
The Footprints of God, by Greg Iles. This novel's about a team of scientists who successfully store a digital copy of the human brain on a computer. Things don't turn out quite as they'd planned. (And if you read this Time article about the point (or singularity) at which some scientists theorize that computers will be more powerful than humans, and thus self-perpetuate, it's crazy to think that Iles isn't too far off.)
Finally, believe it or not, I also really enjoyed Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, despite it's totally implausible plot twists and horrendous writing. And I also really dig Richard Powers — who writes a sort of literary version of science-based fiction — though his novels, at least the ones I've read (The Echo Maker and Generosity: An Enhancement) tend to focus more on medical mysteries and science's attempt to understand them. The Echo Maker actually won The National Book Award in 2006.
So, any other science-techno geek thrillers out there? What are your favorites?