Spiral by Paul McEuen
Read by Rob Shapiro
Genre: Bio-Medical Thriller
Quick Thoughts: An entertaining Summer time thriller with some intriguing science and an excellent performance by narrator Rob Shapiro.
The Bio-medical thriller is a tricky one for me. I have read a few in my day, mostly because at times the books have been advertised as apocalyptic, when in reality it was about preventing a possible apocalypse. To note, these are entirely two different things. I rarely actively seek out a bio-medical thriller. Often, at least in my opinion, they are either clunky tales of hubris with a writer trying to prove just how much he knows about science, or they are just by the numbers thrillers with a touch of scientific hokum thrown in. Yet, searching out my next “June is Audiobook Month” listen, I stumbled upon the book Spiral by Paul McEuen. Paul McEuen is a Cornell University Physics professor who wrote Spiral in his spare time (and I struggle to get a few book reviews up in a week.) I was intrigued by some of the reviews I read and by the fact that it was narrated by a new to me narrator. So, in my attempts to listen to books outside my comfort zone, I decided to give spiral a listen.
The book instantly sucked me into the story, starting with a spectacular post WWII bio emergency dealing with a last attempt by the Japanese to strike at the Western World with a bio agent. The lead character during the early party of the Dr. Ian Connor is instantly likeable, with a strong sense of moral outrage. After the move to the present day we find Dr. Connor a respected biologist at Cornell University, who works with nanotechnology and spends time with his great grandson. Yet, as the focus of the novel shifts from Ian to his colleague Jake Sterling, I began to lose some of the connectedness I had with the novel. Jakes Sterling is sort of the generic vanilla thriller hero. You like him, but just don’t really connect with him. In fact, I felt more connection with the scientific exposition in the novel than I did with most of the characters. Spiral offers you some intriguing looks into the uses and dangers of fungi, in conjunction with nanotechnology. It’s quite a lot more interesting than it sounds. Beyond the science, you have a lot of your thriller tropes at play, highly trained assassins, corrupt government agent, detailed money drops and ticking time bombs. All together it makes an entertaining, yet at times formulaic listen.
Rob Shapiro puts in a strong performance as the narrator for Spiral. He handles complex medical terms, as well as Japanese words and names with ease. He has a deep sonorous voice that helps smooth out some of the clunkiness in the novel. I liked his soft Irish accent for Ian, as well as his handling of the various Asian character’s accents. This is my first audiobook listen with Shapiro as narrator and I plan to look for him in the future. I truly think fans of science based thrillers will find a lot to like with Spiral. For everyone else, this is a solid summer time thriller that won’t blow you away, but won’t bore you either.