How I use technology to shape storylines in my thrillers

September 17, 2013 2:56 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy is my latest thriller in a series of three. The first two were Category 5 and Prophecy. I base my thrillers around some form of advanced technology, or the advanced use of ordinary technology, pushing the boundaries of science to make an interesting story.

In Category 5, the antagonists (with a lot of money to spend) launch into space a powerful laser, potent enough to heat ocean water surrounding hurricanes. An errant American genius has convinced the bad guys that, by controlling water temperatures, he can not only strengthen a hurricane, but steer it as well. With this technology, they intend to wreak havoc on Washington, DC. As with most technological thrillers, I push the envelope on what can be feasibly done. Scientists know that water temperatures do, in fact, control the development of hurricanes.  But there is no laser powerful enough to do what they plan in my book. Incredible and fantastic, but plausible.

In my second novel, Prophecy, I deviated from my meteorological roots and chose biology as the relevant technology. Here, scientists discover what they call a Prophecy Gene, a biological anomaly that shows up only once every several hundred million births. Such a gene gives the recipient special powers, including clairvoyance. In my story, once word gets around, the race begins to locate a present-day recipient. Governments or individuals having access to such a person would be unstoppable. As a bonus to this story plot, I include a second real genetic abnormality inherited by one of the driving characters in the book (her initials are AS). I challenge any of you who are medically trained to recognize the genetic aberration that plagues my character and, at least partially, leads to her demise. The clues are all there. Please write to me if you honestly figure out this secret before my protagonist Victor Silverstein does. If you do, I’ll send you a free copy of White Thaw.

Which brings us to White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy. Helheim refers to an actual glacier in Greenland. This glacier has been receding for years and it, along with other disappearing glaciers, is at the center of a controversy as to whether global warming (including human contribution to global warming) is responsible for glacier retreat. I comment on this debate in another blog I’ve written:

In White Thaw the bad guys are out to do significant harm to the environment by causing this glacier (and others on the east side of Greenland) to slide into the sea. So how would you go about accomplishing such a thing?

Using Soviet nuclear submarine reactors from the 1960s, the antagonists pump superheated steam down through a pipe to the base of the Helheim Glacier. There, they create a “bedrock pool,” a thin layer of liquid water beneath the glacier. The theory is that, after several years of heating, the pool grows large enough that the glacier can no longer maintain its grip on the underlying surface, and it slides into the sea. Of course, it’s up to my protagonists to stop all this nonsense and save the world from an environmental catastrophe. Again, the premise is incredible and fantastic, but plausible.

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This post was written by paulmarktag01