I’m about to unapologetically spoil a 1986 techno-thriller for you. Trust me. It’ll be worth it.
I don’t want to be too blunt, tho. So consider the whole post a huge SPOILER ALERT, and I will confide the title of the novel I’m talking about only at the end. Do we have a deal? Great! So let’s do it!
I was conflicted about whether I should start explaining my reasons to spoil this or talking about the plot itself. So I decided to divide the post into two sections, and you can decide which one to read first. They’ll make sense in any order.
This is the science of fiction.
Why SPOIL this novel?
First and foremost, the novel is great, and it is at risk of being forgotten because its initial themes are kinda dated. It is a Cold War thriller, and, as such, it depends heavily on the tension of that unique period of history.
You can read it as historical fiction, one might say. But can we all agree that a historical fiction novel reads quite differently than a current affairs novel?
For those who did not live through it or grew up with the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall (it is my case), the Cold War time is a historical event. So any story set during the Cold War is now historical fiction, but it was written as a current affair. That’s why it feels dated. And that’s why, I think, it is mostly forgotten by now.
And the main reason I want to spoil this for you is that the mystery that drives the plot has to do with black holes!!
The Earth is being eaten by a goddamned black hole!
This book is a science fiction disguised as a techno-thriller.
You see, the author (who shall remain nameless for now) was an astrophysicist and created an intriguing mystery that could have only been solved with science. The real tension of the book is caused by a micro black hole trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. And the build-up to it is just genius! However, this fact is only revealed in the last third of the novel, so it is a huge spoiler.
I’ve seen people saying that Jurassic Park had a title that was too spoilery because people could have been more amazed at the revelation about dinosaurs if it wasn't in the title. I can’t entirely agree with this opinion. Jurassic Park was the perfect (although inaccurate) title because it drew people in. Unlike this novel I’m talking about, which does not have a spoiling title, so few people got to see the science at stake.
The plot itself
Robert Isaacs was CIA’s deputy Director of Scientific Intelligence during the tensest period of the Cold War, when a Soviet carrier, the Novorossiik, was “attacked” in the Mediterranean. The Soviets blamed the USA for having some kind of new space weapon and using it on the Novorossiik. As the plot moves along, the tension between the two countries escalates with retaliation from both sides. Quite a drama!
Meanwhile, a few occurrences of irregular seismic activities draw Isaac’s attention. This was not a priory when they were about to go to war with the Soviet Union. Still, he tasked one of his agents, Pat Danielson, to investigate it.
To summarize, they found that “some influence moves along a line fixed in space. It travels through the earth or the ocean where its passage can be detected with seismographs or sonar, respectively, It seems to reverse just above the earth’s surface and then return on a parallel path.”
Of course, the attacks on the Soviet carrier (and other places) and these seismic activities are not unrelated!
“There is evidence that this influence is responsible for puncturing a hole several millimeters across through solid steel. and there is every reason to think that it is something that is an immediate threat to life and prosperity and, indirectly, to our political stability.”
This is what Isaacs told his superior, who, of course, did not believe him and asked him to drop this line of research. They had a war tension going on, thus not the time to play with science.
Isaacs did the opposite and pursued this matter further, putting his and Danielson’s careers in line. Eventually, together with a team of experts, they discovered this “influence” was a micro black hole trapped in orbit around Earth’s center of mass, going through the Earth itself and eating away whatever it encountered ahead. Including Soviet carriers.
I think that’s enough spoiler for today. I just want to say that the whole book is one hell of a ride! And I am sure it would appeal to science fiction fans as well, despite being a cold-war-themed techno-thriller.
Ready for the reveal?
I have already thoroughly spoiled the plot, but to make it less obvious, I decided to leave the title and author of the novel to the end. In 1986, The Krone Experiment was released, written by J. Craig Wheeler. It has an adaptation, a homonymous movie made in 2005. I haven’t watched it yet, but in the description, the cold-war tension is updated to a threat of reigniting the Cold War between Russia and the USA.
Have you watched it yet? If not, are you curious about it now? That was the whole point of this post, so let me know in the comments.
I wish you all a great year!
See you next post!
Carla Ra is a scientist by day, sci-fi writer by night.
You can check out her anthology ARTIFICIAL REBELLION here.