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by Stel Pavlou
ISBN 0312280750 / 9780312280758 / 0-312-28075-0
Publisher Thomas Dunne Books
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From its opening disaster in the oilfields of Antarctica through its escalating scenes of destruction and discovery, Stel Pavlou's novel Decipher keeps the tension mounting. Inevitably, readers care quite a lot about thrillers involving the entire destruction of the world in which we live, but Pavlou also makes us care for his characters, living through gravity waves and solar flares and trying to do something about them. Many of the ideas in his plot will be familiar to those of us who have read the alternative archaeology of writers such as Graham Hancock--the lost civilisation before the dawn of history, the uncannily accurate archaic maps, the secret chambers below famous religious monuments. However, there is considerably more to Pavlou than just wide reading effectively recycled--his evocation of the chillingly cold or the deeply strange, for example, and his understanding of both the human drive to greedy evil and the human capacity for self-sacrifice. Scott, passionate student of ancient languages, and Sarah, brilliant young geologist, are uncomplicatedly virtuous characters and rather refreshingly so; Pavlou's sense of the dangerousness of a universe with which humans greedily tinker without understanding it is balanced by a sense of the other things of which humans are capable. --Roz Kaveney [via]