Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka

Prophet of Bones
by Ted Kosmatka
Henry Holt and Co - April 2nd 2013
368 pages

This was a riveting thriller that blended some of my favorite elements of sci-fi--alternative history, comparative culture and hard science--with political intrigue and romance to create a real page turner.  The only reason I didn't finish it inside of the week I began it was due to the upheavals in my personal life at the time that took priority and yet I carried the book around with me anyway anticipating the next moment I could open it for another paragraph or page before my eyes glued themselves shut for the day.

Having been raised a Christian fundamentalist, the alternate history premise that carbon dating had debunked Darwin in the 1950s, was tailor made to get my attention.  As was the depiction of a world in which all knowledge is controlled by the churches and millions of books, academic journals and magazines are looked away in forbidden archives which has been one of my personal nightmares since I broke with the fundamentalists in the mid 90s.

The hard science involved is genetics, archaeology, paleontology anthropology and forensics.  The protagonist Paul Carlsson, a young scientist, must grapple with politicians who see him as a pawn, an eccentric billionaire playing God on his Everglades compound who sees him as a threat, an old flame who might see him as too hot to touch after a number of those who helped him ended up dead or disappeared, memories of an abusive father who seemed to see him as a disappointment and the evidence of the bones that he sees as a disturbing challenge to the foundation of his beliefs.

read an excerpt

Q&A with Ted Kosmatka

From the Publishers:

Paul Carlsson, a brilliant young scientist, is summoned from his laboratory job to the remote Indonesian island of Flores to collect DNA samples from the ancient bones of a strange, new species of tool user unearthed by an archaeological dig. The questions the find raises seem to cast doubt on the very foundations of modern science, which has proven the world to be only 5,800 years old, but before Paul can fully grapple with the implications of his find, the dig is violently shut down by paramilitaries.
Paul flees with two of his friends, yet within days one has vanished and the other is murdered in an attack that costs Paul an eye, and very nearly his life. Back in America, Paul tries to resume the comfortable life he left behind, but he can't cast the questions raised by the dig from his mind. Paul begins to piece together a puzzle which seems to threaten the very fabric of society, but world's governments and Martial Johnston, the eccentric billionaire who financed Paul's dig, will stop at nothing to silence him.

What they are saying: 

“A masterwork of intrigue and menace. I couldn’t put Prophet of Bones down until I reached the climax…An eye-opening and page-turning read without parallel.”
—Clive Cussler
“Ted Kosmatka is both an excellent writer and a hell of a storyteller…Prophet of Bones is truly hard to put down. This is what a novel is about”
—Nelson DeMille
“Everyone needs to read this book. Seriously. Everyone. Best writing I've encountered in ages.”
—Hugh Howey (via Twitter)
“Written with confidence, in a sure hand, the tension leaps from the page. All of the right elements combine—danger, treachery, and action. Buckle up, hunker down, and get ready for an all-nighter.”
—Steve Berry
“A near-perfect blending of traditional thriller and alternate-reality scientific and theological fantasy… has best-seller written all over it.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“Kosmatka is fascinated by the underlying genetics and anthropology, and cheerfully goes on about haplogroups, nucleotide pairs, and DNA sequencing in ways that would leave the Crichton school in the dust….”
—Locus Magazine
“Gripping, dark, and well written…Kosmatka paints in broad strokes yet still nails the details…this is a compelling juggernaut of a read.”
—Library Journal
“An exciting alternate-universe thriller…readers will gulp this on down.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Prophet of Bones is what happens when you start with a foundation of Harry-Turtledove-style alternate-history science fiction, throw in some Dan-Brown-ian theology-tinged conspiracy theory, add a dash of Jurassic-Park-era Michael-Crichton-esque bio-thriller and top it all off with some Elmore-Leonard-y dark humor. The result is some truly unique – and uniquely awesome—classification-defying, boundary-pushing fiction, and I, for one, couldn’t be more thrilled.”
“Meshes realistic science with fast paced thrills…It will keep you guessing, straight till the end – and you’ll love every minute of it.”

Ted Kosmatka's work has been reprinted in nine Year's Best anthologies, translated into a dozen languages, and performed on stage in Indiana and New York. He's been nominated for both the Nebula Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and is co-winner of the 2010 Asimov's Readers' Choice Award. He is a video game writer at Valve and lives with his family in the Pacific Northwest, not far from the water.
Ted on Goodreads
Bones, Genes, Demons - Ted's Blog

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