Eeyurgh. This is quite simply the worst book I've read in quite some time. I very nearly abandoned it in disgust when the characters started acting in ways that would make the worst TV soap opera seem like Shakespearean insight into humanity and we were presented with a scientific howler that a high school student shouldn't have tolerated. But for some perverse reason, I kept reading. It didn't get better. Several different ludicrously cliche villains bounce off of each other. Then after nearly getting killed several times, our hapless hero suddenly decides to do what he should have done on page 50. And just in case you make it to the last page without feeling you've totally wasted your time, the last thing that happens in the story serves to add a distinct note of unpleasantness on top of the multiple too-painful-to-read stupidities.
2 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- SPOILERS ****
Why I bother with a warning I don't know; if having this turkey "spoiled" could save someone from reading it, I'd be doing them a service.
Paul Cochrane gets a call from his estranged brother Mike, who promises that he's come up with something big and can pay off the big debt he owes Paul. Paul hops on a plane from Tucson to Palo Alto, but when he gets there, Mike turns up dead. Paul manages to figure out that Mike had genetically engineered a strain of cyanobacteria that produce a lot of extra hydrogen. Then the beautiful Elena tells Paul she's working for the FBI and hops into bed with him. Of course she's an industrial spy. She wants to sell the secret to Lionel Gould, chairman of Gould Energy, a big oil company. Gould of course wants to suppress the technology. Paul decides he'd rather let the world have it, and Elena, who has suddenly decided she's really in love with Paul, goes along. She conveniently knows a museum director in Boston (I think it was) who hides them and fronts them money while they take the information to the ambitious Senator Bardarson who figures that by revealiing the secret of cheap energy he can win the Presidency. Somewhere in here, Paul comes up with the brilliant idea that we can short circuit all of that tricky hydrogen infrastructure by just putting a film of the bugs into every gas tank, and suddenly the idea has shifted from almost-plausible vats of algae making hydrogen from the sun to magic that splits water into its component hydrogen and oxygen without putting any energy in. (There are other minor science gaffes, but not so major, and not key foundations of the plot.) Paul is working late at night with an NSF scientist when he gets a phone call from Elena who's been kidnapped. So he calls the NSF guy and tells him to delete everything, he's not giving it up after all. The goon steals the hard drives from Paul's high school buddies (at least Paul knew enough to send backup copies of the data to friends). But then the Chechen terrorist cell puts the muscle on Tulius who was the director of Mike's lab; they want to be sure the tech is developed to stick it in Russia's eye. The Chechens manage to take out the goon, but then Tulius decides it would be fun to double cross them and sell out to Gould. Gould arrives at Tulius' lab just as Paul and Elena were visiting (because they'd decided to publish, so they decided to go to Tulius because it was more convenient than going back to the NSF), and Gould walks out with the hard drives from Paul's buddies. Then there's the shootout at Paul's Tucson apartment when they all arrive at the same time to pick up the laptop that Paul had FedExed to himself from Boston. Gould has all the cards now, and is gloating at a private dinner, but when Paul learns that he forced Elena to sleep with him while they were kidnapped, he takes a stake knife to Gould and forces him to let them go. They fly across country to the million dollar house that Elena just happens to have in San Francisco. But when Paul decides that what he really should do, if only he still had a copy of the data, is to just put it on the Internet, Elena suddenly decides that she can't hold onto her secret after all; it seems that she killed Mike at the beginning (it was an accident, he was becoming abusive and when she defended herself he hit his head on a lab bench) and had his missing laptop the whole time. But because Paul is so noble she can't keep hiding the secret, so she leaves him. Paul emails the data to everyone he can think of. Gould has a big temper tantrum and smashes millions of dollars worth of art objects, but then he directs his company to exploit the new technology as quickly as possible. On the last page, we learn that Gould has had Paul assassinated.