Book: Dark Rising; Author: Grieg Beck; Publisher: Pan Macmillan; Price: Rs.350 (Indian Edition); Pages Rs 470; Genre: Adventure
The Cold War has given way to a nuclear arms race where the quest for new nuclear weapons of destruction powered by the likes of Iran and North Korea keep the big brothers on their toes.
A new breed of demolition men - armed with super powers - is ready to fight the minions of death.
The action is no longer in Russia or the US; the scene has moved to secret desert facilities in Iran where scientists are researching the latest in particle physics to generate more potent holocaust machines. In an age of god particles (Higg's Boson), it makes sense to create a simulated black hole which sucks in human volunteers, ferries them to another world and brings them back to earth, mutilated beyond recognition.
Away in the US Military Space Command, the latest surveillance technology for nuclear espionage picks up a burst of gamma radiation from the Iranian desert. An alert sounds worldwide about a possible nuclear test by Iran, the thorn on the world nuclear map.
It rings in Israel where the Mossad - the nation's secret service - deputes a crack undercover woman agent and a nervous nuclear scientist to bust the underground facility in the ruins of Persopolis in the Iranian desert.
A tactical entente is forged between the Americans and the Israelis when they decide to take on Iran together.
Spy games have changed since the days of John Le Carre's psychological espionage of 1950s in which the intellectual low-key government-type - endowed with a quick wit, power of observation, a sense of resignation and a gun - solves geo-political crimes in a rather Holmsian manner.
Ian Fleming's James Bond preceded Le Carre's quiet unassuming spy. The flamboyant spy who, stirred his dry Martini, was the first of the techno-spies embellished by modern science.
Loopholes are aplenty in Beck's book, including major structural gaps. But the stark irony of the 21st century tale commenting on the nuclear arms race, the geopolitical tensions, relentless action backed by thorough knowledge of science and grand canvas of imagination carries Beck through.
Spies of the 21st century are creations of science tailored to track nuclear terror.
Beck's superspy Captain Alex Hunter - Dark Rising is the second of the Alex Hunter series, picking up the thread from 'Beneath the Dark Ice' - is a hulk who defies mortal definitions of human. He has a sharp extra-sensory perception to sniff danger, connect through mind vibes and is pumped with energy-enhancers.
Hunter when not on duty is a test-mice at the space station lab where his brain is mapped for new powers he is developing.
The spy gets a lease from his lab duty when deployed by the US government for the mission with the Israelis.
At stake is science. Hunter has to fight the simulated black hole, which is caused by an intense burst of gamma radiation which generates new particles and then implodes into a black vortex - spinning at the core with cosmic dark matter. It has a fatal magnetic pull.
Created by a team of international scientists working for Iran, it is touted by Iran as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction that could suck the world into a giant artificial black hole.
President Mosahddam, the head of Iranian nation, defies his Islamic Guardian Council (the apex religious body), invokes the Hadith and Allah to 'describe the black hole capsule as a gateway to heaven which will deliver mankind'. He begins human trials on the black hole.
As the Americans and the Israelis close in on the site, along an alien monster from a planet of 'orange sky and a weak blue sun', probably brought back by the black hole during one of the experiments, the Iranian president decides to meet Allah in 'Jannat' aboard the black hole.
The president escapes in the black hole, which passes out to another world. Alive, the president steps out into the 'land of orange sky and blue sun'. In the distance, the human-eating monsters sulk in the mist.
This is 'jannat', the president bursts into song.
(18.07.2012 - Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)