Phil D'Amato, a forensic scientist working for the NYPD, is visiting an old friend in rural Pennsylvania--home of the Amish. When the friend with no known allergies drops dead of a sudden allergic reaction, D'Amato decides to investigate. He finds himself at the center of a 30,000 year-old biowar being waged with genetically engineered weapons. As he probes deeper, it becomes apparent that the Amish are not the technophobes they appear to be.
In his first novel, Levinson was not afraid to tackle big concepts. His narrative spans 1,300 years and several continents, from the Tocharians, a tribe living in Xinjiang on the Silk Road route around 750 A.D., to a New York library janitor who may or may not be entirely human. When the bodies of what look like recently dead Neanderthals start turning up in Toronto and London, the book revs into high gear. We hurtle through a dozen murders, theories for the origins of Homo sapiens and the demise of the Neanderthals; touch on aspects of the philosophy of science and the possibility that cave paintings are really prehistoric movies; and wrap up with an interesting vision of what humanity might have been--if only things had turned out differently.
Phil D'Amato made his first appearance in Analog, and fans of his forensic sleuthing will love this full-length treatment. It is biological SF of the Old School--plenty of adventure with no fancy writing and very little character development to get in the way of the plot. --Luc Duplessis
Combining Neanderthals and mechanical looms, cantaloupes and coded butterflies, Levinson's debut novel (he's also the current president of the Science Fiction Writers of America) offers a flurry of amazing prehistoric technologies, demonstrating that the mysteries of our past can be just as fruitful as those of our future. A series of strange deaths draws forensic detective Phil D'Amato (returning from Levinson's shorter fiction) ever deeper into an ancient and ongoing biological war. D'Amato's vacation in Lancaster, Pa., quickly gets serious when an Amish man is murdered, then D'Amato's good friend Mo turns up dead. Before he dies, Mo tells of his investigation into the local Amish, of their homes lit by specially bred fireflies and their possible control of deadly allergic reactions. The rest of the novel's first part works like an expanded short story as D'Amato gradually learns to take the Amish biotechnology seriously. But after a harrowing rescue from incendiary fireflies, the main plot pauses, and its second part jumps back to eighth-century central Asia. This self-contained story follows young Gwellyn on his search to discover the secret of the Neanderthals, who may yet be alive. Blending exotic travel through the Byzantine and Islamic empires with Gwellyn's growing realization that the Neanderthals are far stranger than humanity ever imagined, this is the novel's standout section. The book returns to the likable D'Amato for its remainder, as he pursues a bewildering array of murders, deceptions and ancient bioweaponsAall connected, somehow, in the recurrence of silk. Before its dramatic conclusion, Levinson's ambitious plot occasionally leaves his narratorAand his readerAat sea in loose ends and expository dialogue, but abundant, clever speculations, which creatively explain gaps in both ancient history and biology, compensate handsomely, providing more wonders than many a futuristic epic. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I am always delighted to find a new science fiction author. There are simply not enough of them being published these days to suit me. Read morePublished on Jan. 20 2002 by Jennifer Juday
This remarkable novel contains one of the great rarities of popular literature: A truly original idea, namely that "advanced technology" need not involve computers,... Read morePublished on Aug. 30 2001
My wife got me this book because it is by a local author. This is the second of his books I've read and I guess I just don't like his episodic, very bland style of writing. Read morePublished on May 12 2001
This book was extremely disappointing. The characters were one-dimensional, existing only to advance the plotline (or to be murdered). Read morePublished on May 5 2001
If you're fascinated by the potential of human genome research, as I am, you'll love Levinson's novel. Read morePublished on March 6 2001 by Henry Ehrman
I thought the book was interesting but overall a disappointment. Firstly, the science was hard to believe. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2001
Prehistoric man has been an interest of mine for many years. I look for articles about Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals in the New York Times, and I try to watch shows about them on... Read morePublished on Jan. 14 2001 by Joseph Tribio
Somehow, this book was selected as a 2000 Locus award winner. A very questionable choice, IMHO. The book is not terrible, but, I can't recommend it. Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2001 by "kooldak"