Genre Science Fiction Publisher Archebooks Year Published 2004 Review Posted on 5/9/2005 Reviewer Rating
7 out of 10
Thrips, by L. R. Farley
Book Review by Susie Hawes
Have you read this book?
Thrips, the novel, is the latest entry in environmental suspense. Flesh eating, pesticide resistant and multiplying rapidly, these tiny insects are turned loose in paradise.
What are thrips? To most of us they are tiny insects that damage plants. They are usually controlled by commercial pesticides. To Mr. Farley, they constitute a potential disaster. A nice touch, to see something so common and innocent cast in such a light.
Nathan Brewster is a reporter for the Waikiki Times. His past is troubled and his future seems empty. Nathan began his career as a reporter for The Indianapolis Herald, but his zeal caused him to neglect his marriage. His career took all his energy, yet he did not find the breakthrough story he wanted. His wife divorced him. In disgust Nathan left the big city newspaper for the Waikiki Times, a smaller paper.
The first story he broke exposed Waikiki's Spirit Killer and earned him the title ace reporter, but Nathan wasn't interested. Nathan has an innate ability to sense danger, something he never understood but trusts. He's just doing enough to get by when the police report of a horrible death shocks him out of his lethargy, and tweaks his instinctive sense of danger.
Nathan interviews the dead man's lover and decided to follow the story, although the police are treating it like a dead end. His investigations lead to one of the island's major planters, whose land is infested with biogenetically altered thrips.
As the body count rises, Nathan teams up with a crew of determined helpers and discovers the brilliant but twisted Dr. Philip Wei, a geneticist working for a terrorist country. He has turned what was a common and reasonably well-controlled threat into the perfect killing machine, mindless, relentless and breeding out of control. Meanwhile, a tropical storm is brewing off the coast, threatening to sweep over the island and destroy what the thrips leave behind.
The characters continue to evolve and we see their strengths and weaknesses, concerns and dreams. The villain is a bit cliché, but wonderfully vile. Power lust caused by a sense of inferiority motivate him. By destroying lives he hopes to gain medical prominence among the terrorist community, and financial independence. His sadistic nature and his ability to manipulate others heighten his effectiveness as a dangerous opponent.
Adding to the suspense is a ticking clock. Not only are the islanders fighting immanent infestation, but mother nature is brewing up a hurricane to sweep the land, perhaps scattering the thrips so they can devastate more of the world's ecology. A tense race up a volcano culminates in a fight not only to capture and confine Wei, but to keep his technology from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Threaded throughout the novel are the main character's isolation and disillusionment with life and his profession. The author examines of how the events in Waikiki and the comments of his editor and friends fuel Nathan's renewal of motivation and involvement, both with his peers and his profession. As Nathan makes friends and finds new love and purpose, we get a glimpse into his life and the lives of the people around him.
Mr. Farley falls back on his years as a newspaper reporter and editor to give this novel a strong feel of authenticity. A nice touch was the way he showed the odd mixture of commercialism and natural beauty that permeated the Hawaiian island. Old customs and new are in constant conflict and the mixture that comprises Hawaiian culture is shown in loving detail. This mindset is extended throughout the book, from the discussion of pesticides used by the local planters to the public meeting about the thrips hosted by the University. Old ways are contrasted with new in almost every aspect of life, but most visibly in the way the islanders treat their environment.
The depth of characterization is strengthened by the
wonderful touches of Hawaiian culture, music and scenery. Mr.
Farley's understanding of the Hawaiian islands and people
bring us sights and sounds that we might not have experienced
before. His portrayal of environmental concerns, combined with
enough scientific exposition to help us understand the true
nature of the threat posed by these seemingly harmless pests,
makes this suspense novel rise above the genre to tweak our
environmental consciousness. Mr. Farley falls back on his
life, in his choice of a hero and in his setting, to lend the
work a sense of intimacy that appeals. I highly recommend it.
This novel is, by far, one of the best I've read in some time. I think it's a re-read, too. Definitely worth putting on the keeper shelf.
Posted by Schelly Steelman on 5/23/2005
I am not usually a fan of the techno thriller, but I could not put this one down! I loved it!
Posted by Bob Farley on 5/19/2005
Author L.R. "Bob" Farley, here, letting you know that a four-chapter excerpt is available in HTML format from my site at http://www.LRFarley.com/thrips.html and in PDF format from the publisher at http://www.archebooks.com/BookIDX/Indexes/MystSus/THRIPS/THRIPSDesc.htm . The book won a novel writing contest at ArcheBooks last year and comes in hardcover and e-book flavors.