cover image The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate

Robert Buettner. Baen, $25 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8190-7

Buettner’s meandering science fiction mystery, set in 2019 San Francisco, reverberates with echoes of current concerns over biomedical ethics, religion, and political machinations. Manny Colibri, a titan in human longevity research, is presumed dead after a bombing, and the details of his demise and the company’s work don’t seem to be adding up. Concerned philanthropist David Powell brings together a team of amateur investigators: Jack, who’s been mired in grief for the two years since his wife died of cancer; Kate, his estranged daughter, who’s an investigative journalist; and Ben, a Department of Homeland Security liaison and Iraq war veteran. The intrigues of the search touch briefly on government and organized religion, but they focus primarily on unraveling what appears to be a major conspiracy only tinged with the otherworldly. The trio follow clues that Manny left behind and must uncover the truth of the murder while coming to grips with their own biases and secrets. In true competence-porn fashion, the story relies heavily on action- and technology-based interludes interspersed with historical flashbacks. Buettner (Balance Point) brings up several interesting ideas about life extension and the implications of technological advances, but he never really develops them. The lavishly detailed narrative is marred by spotty characterization (especially of Kate) and motives, but the underlying mystery and unpredictability keep the pages turning. (Jan.)