Marianna Bonaventure is an agent for a secret branch of the U. S. Department of Energy, and her assignment is to keep tabs on former Soviet scientists — making sure they don’t start selling their talents as WMD experts to the highest bidders. When she drafts an unwilling Jonathan Knox to help her in tracking down Galina Mikhailovna Postrel’nikova, an old friend from his days as a student in the Soviet Union, they end up posing as lovers on a Russian luxury yacht. Marianna attempts to investigate the science labs on the ship, while in Tunguska the Texan physicist Jack Adler is attempting to prove his cockamamie theory that the Tunguska Object is a micro black hole. Yuri Vissarionovich Geladze, a sure candidate for the Bad Guy’s Hall of Fame, is after them both. What secret is his employer protecting?
I just can’t resist listing other parallels to The Da Vinci Code, which include: Knox runs away from persuers in a museum (the Smithsonian, not the Louvre!); Knox and Bonaventure flee to the luxurious country estate of an eccentric friend of Knox’s; the bad guy tracks them there using a method which they never thought about being used (although in Singularity, I must add it’s something no one would ever have thought of!). And something that got on my feminist nerve (you know, the one without a sense of humor!<g>) in both books, that I don’t recall having seen anywhere else lately, is the habit of using the man’s surname and the woman’s given name in the same context. Why would any writer refer to their two lead characters as “Marianna and Knox” (or “Sophie and Langdon”)? Why not “Bonaventure and Jon” (or “Neveu and Robert”) for that matter? I’d like to see consistency – either all surnames or all given names, thank you very much!
OK, so I’ve made my point that there are a lot of parallels with The Da Vinci Code. (What else can you expect when, like most secondary school students, I spent a lot of time in my teen years comparing and contrasting two works?!) But let me assure you, Singularity is not the Mad Libs school of novel writing. I think a lot of these common threads are there just because they’re exciting to read about, and both the books are exciting.
One strength of Singularity is the female characters. (Ah, the feminist nerve is appeased!) Bonaventure is a well-rounded action hero. She’s described as beautiful (“drop-dead gorgeous” is Knox’s first impression), and yet, when was the last time you saw an action hero look at herself in the mirror after putting on a bikini, and not be entirely pleased with what she sees? She lives life boldly and makes some real great mistakes. And Galina Mikhailovna Postrel’nikova is easily one of the most compelling minor characters I’ve encountered in a long time. Based on her role in the book, in the hands of a less assured writer she could easily have ended up merely a noble victim of suffering. But DeSmedt transcends a two-dimensional portrayal of her.
There are some real nice nuggets of writing in the book, too. Here’s a description that made me smile: “The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts illuminated the humid Washington dusk like a king-sized bug-zapper, the oranges and blues of its floods luring in all manner of lepidopterous nightlife, resplendent in chitinous tuxes and diaphanous evening gowns.” And Knox’s deadpan thought, “out of the frying pan, into the thermonuclear holocaust.” I enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to more from DeSmedt.