The Last Sword Maker

Brian Nel­son

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction -

Black­stone Pub­lish­ing (OC­TO­BER) Hard­cover $27.99 (240pp), 978-1-5385-0766-7

A ter­ri­fy­ing vi­sion of fu­ture war­fare in the vein of Tom Clancy’s and Michael Crich­ton’s nov­els, Brian Nel­son’s The Last Sword Maker fol­lows a hor­rific out­break in Ti­bet that proves to be a tar­geted weapons test—one that suc­cess­fully at­tacks spe­cific ge­netic traits.

The test sets up a global power im­bal­ance: which­ever coun­try first reaches the repli­ca­tion point of Ai-pow­ered nanorobotics will gain the up­per hand. Know­ing the Chi­nese are near­ing the tip­ping point, the US gath­ers top sci­en­tists un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a ruth­less ad­mi­ral. The two na­tions en­ter a tech­no­log­i­cal cold war in a race to come out on top; in the process, they un­leash a pow­er­ful new force with earth-shat­ter­ing ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

With their in­cred­i­ble char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and di­a­logue, the US ad­mi­ral and the Chi­nese leader bal­ance each other well; both deal with achiev­ing their goals and main­tain­ing moral­ity. The Chi­nese leader es­chews moral­ity to en­sure that his na­tion comes out on top; the ad­mi­ral strug­gles to bal­ance jus­ti­fied killing with his own hu­man­ity.

Sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal as­pects are ex­trap­o­lated from the present day to ter­ri­fy­ing heights. They are well ex­plained and in­cor­po­rated. Solv­ing the repli­ca­tion is­sue not only spurs the na­tions to try reach­ing vi­a­bil­ity first, but it leads to an un­ex­pected twist that opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of fu­ture books.

The story’s po­lit­i­cal in­trigue is in­tense; sab­o­tage and es­pi­onage at­tempts mount its ten­sion and pres­sure. The plot takes some ques­tion­able leaps of faith; they don’t de­tract from the over­all story but feel jar­ring un­til the plot rights it­self. In­tense ac­tion and fre­quent view­point changes help to off­set those mo­ments well.

The Last Sword Maker is a pow­er­house near-fu­ture thriller with ex­plo­sive ac­tion and ex­cit­ing sci­ence. JOHN M. MUR­RAY

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