Thoughts on: “Spiral” by Paul McEuen
Warning: As with all review type articles bias follow.
Growing up in Buffalo there were not many shows or films that showcased my hometown. So whenever a crew showed up to use Buffalo as a backdrop they received the benefit of the doubt.
“The Natural”, in addition to being an excellent baseball film harbors extra love in my heart due to filming principal photography in the “City of Good Neighbors”. “Buffalo 66″ was merely tolerated due to that fact, rather than shut off. You could see Vincent Gallo’s feeling of superiority in regard to Western New York in every frame. It is a truly ugly film.
As a framing: this idea does not give the creator carte blanche.
With the above in mind I really enjoyed “Spiral” by Paul McEuen, Professor of Physics at Cornell University. The bovel is a “nanotechnology thriller” set where my heart and head currently lie: Ithaca, NY.
In addition to geographical consideration Cornell University is as much a character as setting. The University is where I find myself gainfully employed, and though my area is the Arts Quad it all feels authentic… so let the bias begin.
The truth is “The Spiral” is a taut thriller, certainly a worthy first novel effort.It is helped immensely by not overstaying its welcome, the tome is tightly edited with little to no flab. At 304 pages it feels just about right.
The plot revolves around biological warfare and how the past is never really buried…it waits for the right moment in time to affect the here and now. The real world/industry cred McEuen brings adds weight and gravitas to the story.
The central mystery plays out in an unexpected manner. The twists feel earned and not cheap as can be the case in many novels of this type. All of the above is made better as the characters felt real, fleshed out…not merely pawns to be moved at the whim of the plot. The main character Liam Connor was particularly well written, a favorite. I would love to know if he was based on some of McEuen’s colleagues at Cornell.
“Spiral” is a genre quick read, grounded in real world science and 21st century fears. The latter will stick to your brain for days, it all feels so inevitable in the Post 9/11 world.