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Scientists exploring Antarctica recently discovered new life forms on portions of the ocean floor freshly exposed after an ice shelf collapsed. That's a timely coincidence considering that the fictional scientists in Juris Jurjevics' debut novel, The Trudeau Vector, discover new life forms in the frozen world of the Arctic.
Jurjevics' entry into the circle of published authors is also something of a coincidence. The Latvia-born Jurjevics is the co-founder and publisher of SoHo Press, a New York publishing house.
Being a publisher doesn't mean you also can write a successful novel, but Jurjevics' book has an entertaining, if not overly original, story line.
Just as Michael Crichton uses science-gone-wild as an integral part of some of his novels, including The Andromeda Strain, Prey and Jurassic Park, Jurjevics has his protagonists rushing to discover what is causing the body count to rise at a research center in the deathly cold Arctic.
The plot also brings to mind The Thing From Another World (starring James Arness as the Thing), the 1951 science-fiction movie set in another Arctic research post where science threatens to run amok.
The Trudeau Vector's set-up is intriguing: Three members of an international team working at the Trudeau Research Center are found dead, the pupils in their eyes missing, their bodies contorted in hideous positions. A fourth is found nearby, naked and dead, apparently from exposure.
Enter the likable and somewhat kooky American epidemiologist Jessica Hanley, who is hired to investigate what or who killed the scientists.
In a parallel story, the aging Russian Adm. Georgi Rudenko is enlisted to locate a submarine that vanished after its departure from waters near the research station. Nostalgic for the good old Cold War days when his life was more exciting, he eagerly undertakes the search. Like Hanley, he is an affable, well-developed character.
The two story lines skate steadily along, marked by more deaths, threats on Hanley's life and her convenient love affair with a younger man that begins within days of her arrival.
Readers might find this love-in-the-time-of-killer-microbes affair too saccharine, and it's easy to guess how it shakes out.
But Jurjevics' enthusiasm for his subject matter and his clear and interesting (although sometimes wordy) explanation of scientific theory and processes is as infectious as the renegade microbes themselves and easier to swallow than much of today's unimaginative fiction.
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