Revelation by Bill Napier

Anthony G Williams

Apr 18, 2007
This is the third of Bill Napier's novels I have reviewed here (although the second he wrote), with two more still in the reading pile. I was deeply impressed by the first one I read, which was his fourth novel, Lure (keep up at the back!). The first novel, Nemesis, was also good although a bit rougher around the edges.

Revelation has what can now be recognised as typical Napier elements: the principal character is a scientist, researching a mystery which puts him in danger from an organisation determined to suppress the truth. This leads to chases across national boundaries and a fair amount of violent action. There is commonly an historical aspect to the mystery, involving scenes set in the past. There are set-piece debates - very well done - which allow the author to explore aspects of his plot in more detail. The core of the mystery is always to do with science, which is unsurprising as the author is also a scientist. And there is a trace of romantic tension, always kept well in the background.

In this novel, the historical background is the development of the atom bomb in the early 1940s and the fate of one of the scientists, Lev Petrosian, who appeared to have discovered something entirely new and very dangerous - but his work had been lost with him. In the present day, Dr Fred Findhorn, an Arctic specialist, is sent to recover some documents from an old plane wreck buried in an Arctic glacier. These documents provide a key to the mystery of Petrosian's work and become the focus of a deadly hunt as competing groups, with very different agendas, are out to get them. The action hops between the Arctic, the UK, the USA, Armenia and Japan as Findhorn (with some attractive female assistance) tries to discover the secret while staying alive.

I was less impressed by Revelation than the other books; it seemed rather rushed and there were various improbabilities, unexplained aspects and loose ends. As I have observed before, Napier is weak on characterisation and Findhorn never came alive for me. There are also an awful lot of characters and I was occasionally left trying to remember who somebody was. Having said that, the science is as intriguing as ever and the adventure exciting, so it is still worth the read, although the SF element is less strong than in the previous books I've reviewed (question: where does the techno-thriller end and SF begin?).

(An extract from my SFF blog)

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