Finished this book: Blasphemy (by Douglas Preston)

You know how when you go on a trip you need a disposable book? A few days before I left on vacation, I was visiting my mom and asked if she had a book I could have (as opposed to borrow) to read on the plane. She handed me Blasphemy and while it’s not something I would have chosen in a store, the supercollider / science aspect seemed like it would if not outweigh then at least counterbalance the God / Satan aspect.

This one is pretty typical of its genre, with a multitalented and somewhat reluctant good guy sent by the government to investigate some mysterious goings-on at a scientific facility. There’s a love interest from his past who just happens to be one of the scientists he’s investigating, and that subplot is, for the most part, so predictable it made me roll my eyes (her reluctance, her slow interest, his confession and her anger, her dismay and damselish distress when the plot thickens, and his heroic and manly helpfulness in her time of need), although there’s a little twist at the end to keep it from being completely pat.

Genre novels rely on a lot of stereotypes that are like shorthand. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on character development when you can rely on your readers to read the symbols of the venal televangelist, the crooked lobbyist, the CIA-agent-turned-monk-turned-freelancer, the plain and greasy-haired female scientist, etc. And the gender stuff tends to leave me cold: the feminisation of machines, the sexualisation and rescue of female characters, the normalisation of the male leads. But this book had some cultural diversity (not just as local colour, but actual characters with roles), and a number of the scientific team were women (without the in-text self-congratulations that often goes with that).

It was a quick, plot-driven read look at one of the many ways in which religion and science can clash, and how they can both be used and misused. ISBN 978-0-7653-4966-8. It’ll be kicking around Ottawa when I head back home.

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