Novel: Quantico by Greg Bear

Greg Bear’s Quantico (2005) is a near-future thriller mixing police procedure, spy intrigue, and scientific speculation — a pretty good recipe for me. The novel got off to a slowish start, but by and large I found the read compelling and satisfying.

FBI agent and bioterrorism expert Rebecca Rose investigates the site of a mysterious truck crash in Arizona, and ties it to the siege of a noted terrorist suspect known as the Patriarch in Washington state. The common denominators, weirdly, are yeast and ink-jet printers. From these unlikely clues, the shape of a massive, global bioterrorist threat begins to emerge. Drawn into the intrigue are new FBI agents fresh out of training at Quantico: specifically, William Griffin, a well-meaning New York cop following in his legendary father’s footsteps, and Fouad Al-Hasam, a Muslim whose knowledge of Middle Eastern languages and religion gets him seconded to a clandestine interagency black ops group. Even as intense political upheaval amidst the alphabet soup of government agencies in Washington threatens to derail the investigation, Rose, Griffin, and Al-Husam continue piecing together the puzzle, searching out the radical terrorist behind what looks to be a mind-warping biological plague.

Quantico, as you can probably tell from the nutshell description, contains a lot of my wheelhouse elements. In particular, it’s got a convincing near-future backdrop and thorny intelligence world maneuverings between the characters. The novel is broken into three sections, and while I found the first part a bit slow, the pace accelerates nicely later. Bear’s writing is clear and engaging, and he brings both political savvy and scientific expertise to the touchy post-9/11 atmosphere. A solid page-turner with a nice balance of intrigue and science fiction.

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