Stop me if you've heard this before: terrorists are about to unleash a dangerous new virus on an unsuspecting world. Yes, you've heard it before. You're also familiar with the chase scenes (this book features a car and motorcycle chasing a boat and dune buggies chasing ATVs), gunfights, explosions, hot women, studly men, and exotic locales, all standard ingredients in the recipe for a movie-style thriller. There's even a villain named Draco and some international finance intrigue involving stolen artwork. So why bother to open this book when it sounds like bad imitation of a Bond movie? A few reasons come to mind.
First, the virus is designed to infect cells but leave them intact, rather than destroying them as would a typical virus. The purpose of the infection isn't immediately clear, but once it was revealed I had to give Graham Brown credit for avoiding the obvious. His virus isn't unique -- I've seen the concept before -- but it isn't trite. Second, the terrorist group isn't one of the usual suspects (hint: it isn't Islamic!). Third, before it turns into a Bond film, the novel sounds like a Dan Brown story, complete with archeologists and a lost scroll written in a lost language that holds the key to .... something. The intersection of the two thriller subgenres produces an intriguing result, even if it's not quite new. Fourth, the novel has important things to say about overpopulation and torture and the inequities that result from making medical research largely dependent upon a market economy. There's also a useful theological message: Question authority, even (or especially) if the authority is biblical, but don't invite Armageddon to prove the falsity of divinity.
But enough of messages and plot points. The real reason to read The Eden Prophecy, despite its familiarity, is simple: it's a good book. In addition to the standard story about good guys saving humanity from bad guys, there is a more personal story about saving a child from a fast-approaching death, although it fades into the background until the final chapters. The good guys, National Research Institute operative Danielle Laidlaw and an ex-mercenary named Hawker, have been road tested in Brown's earlier novels, Black Rain and Black Sun. (Reading the prior novels isn't necessary to understand this one, but doing so would enhance a reader's appreciation of the secret revealed at the novel's climax.) Laidlaw and Hawker aren't complex characters but Brown gives them good chemistry. The story races along faster than a turbo-charged dune buggy. Brown's writing style is clean and direct, well-suited to an action-driven story. The "race against the clock" ending might be too predictable, too movie-like despite the insertion of a final plot twist, but it's consistent with the novel's slightly outrageous, cocky attitude.
The Eden Prophecy is well researched: in addition to the Old Testament (as suggested by the title), we hear about ancient languages and Gilgamesh and telomeres and Middle Eastern geography and the 5.9K event (a geological event, not a race). A surprising amount of information is packed into this novel. Still, I don't recommend The Eden Prophecy for its history or science lessons. I recommend it because it's fun. I would give The Eden Prophecy 4 1/2 stars if that option were available.