THE FIFTH HORSEMAN
Woefully overwritten, this slipshod debut by ecology expert Sherbaniuk is the first in a planned series featuring Dr. Mike Zammit, a freelance world-class environmental guru who dashes around the globe trying to save the earth from disaster. The fledgling author introduces gripping elements of impending environmental doom and a menacing megalomaniac terrorist villain in the first three chapters, then struggles through the remaining first third of the book trying to bring individual identity and credibility to a veritable army of stereotypical, comic-opera characters engaged in state-of-the-art (however trite) science against a backdrop of current (mainly Russian and Mideastern) geopolitical unrest before the hero becomes aware of the main problem. Called to Turkey to deal with a mysterious, highly toxic green scum growing in the reservoir behind the strategic Ataturk Dam—the sole water source for Turkey's uneasy neighbors, Iran and Syria—Zammit is confronted with a genetically modified organism that is lethal to humans and animals of the region and threatens to spread around the globe. Unfortunately, almost every time the plot seems about to heat up, the forward movement is sabotaged by gratuitous explication of geographic, historical or political trivia. The makings of a crackerjack thriller are squandered, crowded by superfluous subplots cluttered with long and frequently inane passages of description and exposition, like a James Bond novel crossed with an environmental science textbook. (Mar.)
Forecast: Despite this novel's many problems, its up-to-the-minute premise lends itself to reader interest, which will be spurred by national advertising, plus enthusiastic blurbs from Clive Cussler and Tess Gerritsen. Sherbaniuk will have to improve as a storyteller, though, if this series is to take off.
Release date: 03/01/2001