The writing team that scared the willies out of readers with Relic returns with a second, equally gripping novel of techno-terror. A genetically engineered mutation of DNA holds the promise of eradicating influenza forever. But there's a devastating catch: every living creature who comes in contact with the flu-killing virus dies horribly. In the eponymous research facility located deep in the Jornada del Muerto desert of New Mexico, young geneticist Guy Carson and his colleagues try to solve the problem, working in an atmosphere of increasing paranoia while the future of their employer, GeneDyne, rests on the actions of brilliant scientists driven by opposing motives. The authors weave together so many topical threads here (virtual reality, lost Spanish treasure, ethnic pride, scientific ethics) that only their tight control prevents this rousing scientific adventure from spinning away into hyperspace. It's a grand and scary story, with just enough grisly detail to stimulate real-life fears and characters full enough to engage the attention. The bleak desert provides another fearsome challenge to the novel's characters, as well as a metaphor for humanity's previous attempts to control nature. With science, outdoor adventure, sympathetic players and a catchy dusting of computer lore, there's something here to attract-and satisfy-a diverse range of readers. Author tour. (Feb.) ~ FYI: A teaser chapter from Mount Dragon will be included in the mass market edition of Relic, due out this month.