Tung, July 15, 2013
(view all comments by Tung)
"Interrupt" by Jeff Carlson is a pretty solid techno/end of the world thriller that's drawn comparisons to Michael Crichton, among others. The main premise of the novel is that drastic increases in the sun's solar activity causes EMP-like pulses that wreck havoc on modern electronics as well as human brains. Only some people, like those with autism, are affected in different ways. Society quickly falls apart without the conveniences of modern electronics, and meanwhile, relations between the US and China turn hostile with each side wondering if the other is behind the EMP effect.
Carlson writes fluidly and with discipline: each section is told from the point of view of a single character. At times, a section break will transition the POV to a different character. (For some reason, I don't like it when authors shift POV back and forth in the same section.) There three main POV characters: a computer scientist/geneticist (Emily); an astronomer (Marcus); and a Navy pilot (Drew). They start off with separate storylines but not surprisingly, those storylines converge.
The mystery behind the pulses is intriguing, as is the more important question of why people are affected the way they are. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like the story gave good answers to the second question. Indeed, having finished the book, I'm still not clear on why some people were affected the way the autistic persons were. Emily, we're told, figures it out, but there's no explanation that I can recall.
Now, I'm not looking for the "Star Trek: Next Gen" type of technobabble explanation, where something goes wrong and Data explains, "The Heisenberg quantum condenser is unable to generate a sufficient neutrino stream, but if we radiate the core with gamma rays, we should be able to reset the condenser" or something equally impenetrable. However, considering the amount of research that Carlson seems to have put into the issue of autism spectrum disorder, it seems like we could expect a comprehensible answer.
There is a reasonably satisfying ending to the novel (in terms of plot), but it's also set up for a sequel.