Have you read this book?
If you’re Greg Bear, Greg Benford, Larry Niven or Robert J. Sawyer, and you write a book set in the near-future containing speculative elements, it’s called science fiction. If you’re Tom Clancy, Larry Bond, Stephen Coonts, Michael Crichton and, apparently, Greg Iles, it’s labeled techno-thriller. The difference? How much the author got paid, the print run, and the size of the marketing push.
It irritates me to see a ‘techno-thrillers’ on the best seller list with the movie forthcoming when all it’s done is (re)explore ideas and concepts science fiction writers have been tinkering with for at least 50 years.
Dr. David Tennant is a physician and ethicist who’s been assigned by the President to keep an eye on the ultra-secret Project Trinity, which is supposed to be developing the world’s first quantum computer by downloading a molecular level neurological map of a human brain. Using a new super MRI, the top people, including Tennant, have their brains scanned and the resulting neurological models stored. Yet after the scan, Tennant has developed some unusual problems – narcolepsy accompanied by lifelike dreams — memories almost — about the birth of the universe, Jesus, and God.
Tennant and his friend Andrew Fielding, another scientist, use the problems from the super MRI as a reason to suspend the project. Soon after, Fielding dies under mysterious circumstances and Tennant finds himself being hunted by project security. Accompanied by his psychiatrist Rachel and unable to contact the President, Tennant scampers hither and yon while being pursued by Geli Bauer, Trinity’s head of security. And that’s what most of the book is about. It isn’t until the end that the speculative element comes into play.
The result is a book version of the TV show The Fugitive: 90% of the book is Tennant and Rachel running away from Geli and her goons, trying to find ‘answers’ while at the same time avoiding assassination. The characters are well-done, for the most part, not withstanding the evil yet beautiful Security Head and the megalomaniac Military General straight from central casting. Likewise the typical thriller elements — car chases, shot-outs, king-fu fighting, etc. The religious aspects of Tennant’s visions and revelations are vaguely intriguing and I found his observations on the nature of consciousness and its evolution interesting as well, though it might be old hat to readers already familiar with quantum theory.
So while I enjoyed The Footprints of God, I was, at the end, left holding the book and thinking “Eh…. “. Armageddon threatens. Immortality by digitizing human consciousness into a computer. What is the nature of God? Of consciousness? What is man’s relationship to the world? What would a human consciousness do if unfettered from the flesh and given almost limitless power? Admirable issues to explore, yet they are already familiar to science fiction fans.
Should you read it? Depends. It’s science fiction recycled for the masses, sprayed with a bright coat of silver paint and reclassified as techno-thriller. Did you enjoy Armageddon? Jurassic Park? No shame if you did. I did. And I enjoyed The Footprints of God too. But know going in that you’re being served a popularized and watered-down version of the real thing.