This review was first published by Booklist on May 31, 2017.
The promotional blurbs for Richtel’s latest compare it to Michael Crichton’s thrillers and Stephen King’s The Stand, and these comparisons aren’t without some merit. The story is similar in atmosphere and style to both suggestions, and it’s a cautionary tale about technology and science left unchecked. An airplane lands in a remote town and everyone on the ground appears to be dead. A disgraced doctor on board is the best hope to discover what’s going on. The first half of the novel is split between this mystery and flashbacks to the doctor’s past and his relationship to a particular individual who works for an online technology giant. A twist at the midpoint of the book radically changes the direction of the story, and the second half proceeds as a conventional race-against-the-clock thriller. The pacing is excellent, the science is detailed and believable, and the flashback structure is handled well. Richtel’s writing style is urgent, making this an enjoyable and gripping read.