Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reviewing a top scientific thriller: Invasive Species

Invasive Species
Joseph Wallace
Berkley, 2013

Joseph Wallace has done everything right in this thriller: good characters, a killer premise, well-researched locations, and gruesomely scary details.  But what really separates this from the pack is that Wallace, unlike many authors, has the science down cold.  His "thieves" are several evolutionary steps beyond any known insect, but you can work out why they would have evolved this way, and the result is terrifyingly plausible.  The hive-mind intelligence gets a little far out when the hive mind is connecting individuals separated by entire continents, but even here Joseph isn't just hand-waving it: he grounds the thieves' capabilities in what we know about hive minds and mentions the genuine scientific questions we still have about how they might work.  His concepts of how parasitic hosts exploit and control their prey have real analogues in nature, including those hellishly alien fungi that control the minds of ants.
As a writer, Wallace has a lot working for him: his pacing is perfect, his descriptions are thorough without being overly detailed, and he creates characters we care about and yet is never afraid to kill anyone in the service of the story.  It's clear no one is safe in this chillingly realistic novel.


Joe Wallace said...

Matt, as the author of Invasive Species, I want to thank you for this terrific review. It means a whole lot to me, coming from someone as knowledgeable as you. I had a blast weaving in some of what I learned as a science writer, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the result.

all best,
P.S. I very much enjoyed reading your articles posted here.

Manoj S said...

Today only I read your blog and the articles are really awesome.

Matt Bille said...

Joe, you're very welcome! Your book was great.