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THE COLOR OF ICE
By Gordon Mathieson
SinoAmerican Books, 2009 ($14.99)
ISBN-10: 0976925966 ISBN-13: 978-0-9769259-6-5
Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
The Chinese security service finds out about a highly contagious virus created by a Pakistani terrorist group that can kill a specific race within weeks at the beginning of Gordon Mathieson's THE COLOR OF ICE. The Chinese partner with the U.S. to replicate the deadly disease and manufacture a vaccine for whites, blacks and Orientals. President Bowa has little trust in the Chinese however and asks Carrie Bock, a Mandarin-speaking microbiologist to join the project as a "mole." Bock joins the team of Lan Ying, a cold Chinese woman and James Chen, a vaccine specialist with whom she almost instantly falls in to bed. Bock senses something suspicious and has to do some sneaking around to get details.
Gordon Mathieson has all the right pieces: good writing, a good storyline, but the book lacks a certain degree of suspense which makes it a good read rather than a great one. There's some mystery as to how things will turn out, but the good guys winning isn't ever in serious doubt so it's the how of it that becomes more interesting.
Much of the action takes place behind the scenes, and I would have liked to see more of it happen on the page. No chase scenes, no grisly deaths, no knock-down drag out fights and no instances of me tensely reading as fast as possible to see if someone is going to make it. Mathieson has a strong story idea with the creation of a virus and vaccine, but they use prisoners as test subjects, which is a good idea but seems unrealistic without a lot of red tape.
Mathieson has imagination and can write, so hopefully any criticism will be taken as it's meant which is food for thought and not a knock against talent. And I won't hold the cutesy nicknames Bock and the president have for each other against him either, but really — Carbo and Barbo? The title, on the other hand, is quite ingenious and works well.
I like finding writers I've never read before, and I look forward to Mathieson's next effort.
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