Set in the world of the day after tomorrow, this tale of international conspiracy, corruption and catastrophe in the new reality of nanotechnology has more twists and turns than the DNA double helix.
When science writer Nick Ruskin reconnects with his long-lost cousin Simon after a family funeral, Simon lets slip just enough information about his work at the World Science Institute in The Hague to pique Nick’s journalistic curiosity.
But when Nick sets out to write a magazine piece about new developments in nanotechnology, cyber-espionage and advanced android design, he finds himself embroiled in a global chase to thwart an international criminal cartel before its members can get their hands on WSI secrets that could change the course of history.
How do we manage the threats and opportunities implicit in molecular manufacturing, bio-technology and the creation of life? What happens when men of principle face the dilemma of public good versus personal survival? In modern society’s headlong rush for scientific advancement, to what extent can the end justify the means? What chance do good intentions have in the face of power and opportunism?
The Black Tulip Conundrum has lots of action, some world-class villains, and intriguing moral quandaries around the uses of the new technologies.
It has also had great reviews; you can see them on the Amazon US and UK pages. It’s also worth checking out religion and ethics writer Doug Todd’s Vancouver Sun blog for his insights into the moral issues that the story addresses. http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2012/09/10/max-wymans-novel-delves-into-science-religion-and-morality/.
The book is only available electronically, at the absurdly low price of $2.99, in all e-formats via Smashwords and Amazon. To purchase it or read a preview go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008SMSVD0 or http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/251176.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
How would you describe The Black Tulip Conundrum?
It’s an entertainment, in the sense that Graham Greene used the term, set in a time just ahead of tomorrow’s news, with lots of action and intrigue at a variety of international locations, a mix of villains and heroes (hard to distinguish, sometimes) and discreet touches of sex and murder.
A futuristic fantasy?
You could certainly say that. It takes scientific advances in areas like nanotechnology, cyber-espionage and advanced android design and pushes them just beyond their current limits—though advances in these fields happen so quickly that from time to time during the writing process reality came close to overtaking me. That’s one of the reasons the book comes with an appendix of notes guiding interested readers to further explorations on the Internet.
But it’s also a moral tale?
Well, the new science that we’re dealing with here is an ethical and moral minefield, and The Black Tulip Conundrum does touch—lightly, one hopes—on some of the ethical and moral questions that the actions of the central characters raise. It follows the struggle of a good man to maintain his principles in a corrupt world. What happens when men of principle like Simon face the dilemma of public good versus personal survival? In modern society’s headlong rush for scientific advancement, to what extent can the end justify the means? What chance do good intentions have in the face of power and opportunism? Where do we draw the line on state secrets? Modern warfare? Science and religion? They are all great topics to think about. Readers are encouraged to weigh in with their views on the website discussion page.
Are you a scientist?
By no means. At school I failed every science subject dismally. But a life as a writer has shown me how to do research and ask questions. I like following rabbit-holes, and scientific inquiry is riddled with those. I also like to imagine. The plot of The Black Tulip Conundrum is entirely dependent on speculations that take the current state of what we know and ask what if? The text has been checked for accuracy by people with much more scientific expertise than me, but I look forward to robust comment on the speculative nature of the tale.
READING GROUP TOPICS
The Black Tulip Conundrum is a futuristic fantasy that is set in a time that is, in the author’s words, “just ahead of tomorrow’s news.” The author has also described it as “what Graham Greene used to call an entertainment”—that is, a novel of intrigue and incident that follows the struggle of a good man to maintain his principles in a corrupt world. Would you agree with these descriptions? Is it a genre novel? If so, how would you characterize the genre?
One of the characters in the novel says: “People so wish that real life were like fiction, do they not? So they are that much more ready to believe it when fiction is presented to them as real life. We are credulous creatures.” What is your response to that in relation to the plot and action of The Black Tulip Conundrum? What events in the story stand out for you as memorable? Which characters do you relate to best and why? Do any secondary characters stand out for you?
How does the first-person narrative affect your appreciation of the book? Should another character be telling the story? Would you prefer it to be written in the third person?
Is the author’s use of language appropriate? Does he distinguish language sufficiently among characters? Is the dialogue realistic? How would you characterize the author’s style? Is the author’s description of the locations convincing? Do you get enough background information to understand the events in the story? Is it presented in a satisfactory manner? How does this affect your appreciation of the book?
Would you like to see Nick Ruskin’s adventures turn into a series?