Sunday, October 28, 2007

Darkness Falls

Oil production has become a common target of terrorists who see shutting it down or holding it hostage as a means of influencing world politics. Western economies cannot survive without a steady flow of crude oil, a product that to a larger and larger degree is produced in countries not exactly friendly to Western ideas and influences. Oil companies have come to be cast as villains on the world stage and have also attracted a new breed of terrorist, environmentalist extremists, in addition to the more familiar brand of terrorism suffered at the hands of Islamist extremists. Thus is the stage set for the latest thriller from Kyle Mills, Darkness Falls.

When new bacteria surprisingly appear in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, bacteria with a voracious appetite for oil and the drilling equipment used to produce it, Erin Neal, a retired expert in the prevention and control of oil field disasters, finds himself there at the not so subtle request of Homeland Security. As one oil well after the other stops producing, it becomes apparent that the bacteria have the ability to spread from one well to the next and could permanently kill oil production from the biggest producing field in the world. Thirty percent of the world’s production is seen to be at immediate risk, something that could destabilize international politics to the point of causing open warfare and countless deaths.

Erin Neal is devastated to find that his own research into the design of oil-eating bacteria to be used in oil spill cleanup may have been adapted by his former girlfriend and fellow scientist to develop similar bacteria capable of destroying oil still in underground reservoirs. Neal, who had been driven to living in seclusion by the woman’s apparent drowning, begins to suspect not only that she may still be alive but that she could be involved with people who are willing to protect the environment at the cost of millions of lives.

Working with Homeland Security and within the highest levels of government, Neal finds himself in a desperate race to catch those responsible for spreading the bacteria before the world’s entire oil supply is destroyed. As they come to realize that losing oil means losing the power necessary to produce and transport food supplies, to generate heating and cooling for billions, and to fuel the economy and military, Neal and his team understand that only they can prevent the ultimate loss of millions of lives. If they fail, mankind will be reduced to a standard of living not seen for hundreds of years.

Kyle Mills has written a first rate thriller, a nightmarish reminder that our way of life is almost completely dependent on a natural resource that is less and less found within our own borders. Love them or hate them, it is clear that this way of life is dependent on the success that oil companies have in replacing oil reserves for at least the next several decades.

If you don’t believe me, read Darkness Falls.

Rated at: 4.0

6 comments:

  1. This sounds fascinating, Sam. I'm always interested in what would happen to society if we suddenly had no means of production and transportation. Who would survive if we were reduced to the methods of a medieval society? This is interesting in the sense that we take it for granted (foolishly, no doubt) that oil will be available until a viable alternative is discovered. The lack of oil production (as opposed to a shortage) would be devastating on a global scale and gives a lot of food for thought.

    Also the bacteria that eats oil...what a boon that would be in the clean-up of oil spills. And every great discovery can be used in other ways. The old double-edged sword.

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  2. Actually there is oil-eating bacteria. I've seen it used to clean up motor oil sheens in urban lakes and streams. It's been around for quite a while. Turning it anaerobic, so it could grow underground without oxygen, if that were even possible, would make it incredibly slow-growing. But hey, it's fiction!

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  3. Jenclair, I've become convinced that our society is held together by a thread. Having gone through a few hurricanes and seeing how quickly food supplies, water, and power disappear...and what happens when people get desperate and/or greedy, it scares me to death tho think what would happen if the whole country were hit with that kind of supply problem.

    The clean-up bugs do exist already and they work pretty well when conditions are right. They don't, thankfully, have the skills to replicate themselves and destroy the "good oil." :-)

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  4. Sylvia, the book doesn't explain the science behind the super bugs but it does go into the difficulty involved and how long it took to get there. But the reader has to buy into that possibility for the book to work...so I did. :-)

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  5. Wow...great review, Sam, and what a cool concept for a thriller. Pushes a lot of timely societal buttons.

    I have to agree with your view that society is held together by a thread; Katrina really brought that frightening thought home for me...

    If you like this kind of thriller that combines science and/or technology with scary implications for humankind, you might like Prophecy, by Paul Mark Tag, which delves into genetic anomalies.

    The author is a former government scientist, so his plotlines have a sense of reality to them that really grabs you. His first novel was about a category 5 hurricane.

    So far, Prophecy has been my favorite techno-thriller, but now I can't wait to read Darkness.

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  6. Thanks for the tip, Barbie. I'll be sure to take a look at Prophecy. I'm in the mood for thrillers right now, so the timing is perfect.

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