After an argument with myself, I am settling on a 3* review. I found this book to be exceedingly frustrating. I just felt like it could have been so much better.
The story is about a genetic virus on a DNA level and it discusses DNA based technology used by the Amish. I found the concept fascinating. I did struggle to find a character to connect with emotionally, but settled on Phil and Jenna's relationship to relate with.
Phil is a forensic examiner. He and his friends/cohorts/colleagues discover bodies that carbon date 30,000 years in the past. Deaths ensue, bodies get lost, and Phil must get to the bottom of it before humanity is wiped out. OK, maybe not quite that desperate, but that is the idea.
It is essentially an old time mystery story (think Raymond Chandler et al.) with some science fiction type ideas thrown in. Both parts are well thought out and written. I found the genetic manipulation that Mr. Levinson describes absolutely fascinating and it is this concept that sets the book apart. These parts (1,3 and 4) of the story are frantic and fast paced and make an excellent story. Of at least 4 stars.
But, there is another part to the story. The second part. The Tocharian Chariot. In this part, we are sent far to the past to take a journey with Gwellyn as he travels the known world to find the history of the 'singers' while having flings with almost every female whose path he crosses. This part is written in a totally different voice and felt like a completely different style. In fact, I double checked to make sure the book was not actually a short story collection. This part was painful. Had the first part not so engrossed me, I surely would have put this book aside. But, I really wanted to finish the mystery. I could have skipped this part, but I feared I would miss something important. This part would have rated 1*. But, since there were 3 parts with more stars - I settled on 3 for the book.
Even though the conclusion of the book does go back to this part, I do not actually feel like I would have missed anything had I skipped it. I would have just felt like I cheated. Which was beyond me. So, I read it.
Also, this book was written in 1999. This matters. There is much talk about cell phones and call costs - all of which are very different today. So, to maintain some semblance of reality, it helps to remember the writing date.
I would recommend the book with a couple caveats. 1) I would simply skip the second part. I think I would have loved the book without this part and don't think I would have missed much. 2) the writing style is a bit choppy (but that may have been my version), but the story itself is intriguing.