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Book Corner February 2008

by Douglas Preston
New York:  A Forge Book, 2007.  Pp. 414

Reviewed by Dr. Susan K. Hedahl

Prestonís name may be familiar to some for his co-authored series of fictional works with Lincoln Child on the Prendergast series. 

      Prestonís Blasphemy focuses on a team of government researchers in Arizona who are working with a particle accelerator.  For anyone interested in computers, this book is worth spending some time with just for that reason.  The mix of people and motives grows intense as religious fundamentalists become involved in monitoring the accelerator site.  Washington political figures also have their own vested interests in protecting the site.  Their concerns, legal and more murky, meet up with  Navajo communities and politics in the same locale.   The protagonist, a former monk named Wyman Ford, is sent to investigate the site, the machine and its people. 

      What struck this reviewer is Prestonís ability to depict the faith perspectives of many types of people and groups.  These range from the simple statement of a Roman Catholic Christian who believes the Big Bang theory is a means of describing how God created the universe to a rampaging group of believers intent on destroying both the accelerator and acting out the beginning of  their version of Armageddon.

      Things start to disintegrate into murder and fear with the small community working underground, when something goes eerily awry with the accelerator.  The reader will learn that these events lead  not only to the bookís denouement but depict parallel and conflicting episodes of how different groups understand faith, God and science.

       This is a powerful and engaging book and raises some key issues about faith and God in relationship to science.  There are also some insights on what it means to found a cult and the personalities and processes that can lead to such developments.