cover image The Great Unmaking

The Great Unmaking

Brian Nelson. Blackstone, $27.99 (474p) ISBN 978-1-5385-0784-1

Set in 2027, the stunning final volume of Nelson’s Course of Empire trilogy (after 2021’s Five Tribes) finds scientist Eric Hill, who was part of the team that developed nanosites, which are both “sentient and capable of evolving on their own,” worried that the U.S. government has become so obsessed with threats from charismatic ecoterrorist Riona Finley and her New Anarchists that this technology will be misused—especially with the aid of the new, virtually omniscient AI system. Hill rightly suspects that the program’s new boss, Gen. Chip Walden, has dangerous private goals. Meanwhile, hangdog FBI agent Bud Brown is vowing to redeem himself by getting sober and tracking down Finley’s deadly master bomb maker. While all this turmoil is building, Finley’s message becomes increasingly relevant: Our population is too large and our civilization too wasteful to survive. The tension builds toward a climax in which life on Earth must either be wiped out by nuclear holocaust or horrifically transformed into something with new possibilities. This is challenging stuff, but it’s so clearly and forcefully presented that readers will find it hard to put the book down. Nelson has outdone himself. Agent: Andrea Cavallaro, Sandra Djikstra Literary. (Mar.)