Born: Hungerford, Berkshire, UK
Thriller Sub-genre: Techno-thriller/Eco-thriller
Future of the series: The latest book in the series entitled Behind the Wire was recently released on 5/9/16.
The Simon Review
Rachel Amphlett’s Dan Taylor series is my first eco-thriller series that I am reviewing. Even though her series is considered an eco-thriller, it could easily fall into the techno-thriller category, as there are plenty of weapons of mass destruction involved. I have been ignoring eco-thrillers up to this point, only because there are not that many eco-thriller series out there. However, I am sure that this will change as we begin to see more problems occurring as a result of climate change as well as other issues with the environment.
Amphlett’s series focuses on our insatiable consumption of energy, and the problems that could arise as oil reserves begin to deplete and as we switch over to alternative fuels. The main character is Dan Taylor, a budding geologist that leaves his graduate studies to join the military in order to get out from under the competing shadow of his father, who is a highly respected geologist. Taylor becomes a member of an elite bomb squad until an incident leaves him injured and messed up with PTSD. He drifts through life until he finds out that a good friend and scientist, Peter Edgewater, had committed suicide. Taylor doesn’t believe that Edgewater would kill himself and approaches Peter Edgewater’s ex-wife Sarah to get her viewpoint on the situation. Sarah, a journalist, agrees with Taylor and together they begin to investigate and find out more than they could handle. Eventually, Taylor is recruited into what is called the Energy Protection Group and his adventures go from there.
Overall, I like this series, it has all the thrills in it that any thrill-seeking reader wants to find in a good thriller. For the most part, I have no complaints with the exception of one and that would be the science. Being a scientist, I tend to view the world rationally and I am always in awe of how nature works. I only point this out because I find it frustrating when scientific logic is ignored by the general public especially in the realm of ecological problems. I find it interesting that the general public will grasp quite willingly and happily when technology such as cell phones, computers, and medical advances enrich their lives and totally accepting of the science behind it, but on the other hand will be very distrusting when it comes to the science behind ecological issues. Scientist are a unique group of people in the sense that they are incredibly skeptical. When one scientist comes up with a theory, you can bet your booties that there will be plenty other scientists out there that will try to tear it apart. So when scientists come together and agree that a theory is sound, that’s a big deal, because scientists rarely agree on anything unless the data is so overwhelming they just can’t ignore it. So in the case of climate change, hundreds of scientists are in consensus that this is a real phenomenon and human activity is the cause. This is not a conspiracy because scientist don’t conspire, that would go against all reasoning to why they became scientist in the first place and that is to understand how nature works.
One of the purposes behind my writing this blog was to highlight the science found in fictional writing and to determine whether it is realistic or not. Fiction is a great way to educate the public about issues that we deal with in our daily lives especially scientific concepts that can sometimes seem too esoteric to understand unless it is discussed in a more real life situation. Authors of eco-thrillers have this great opportunity to educate readers on ecological matters that are plaguing our times, but since many people react to ecological issues emotionally, any science that backs up these claims must be sound. Of course, this sometimes can be difficult since authors want to make a story interesting and tweaking the science facts may be necessary to make the story more exciting. In that case the author should include an afterword explaining the science and any deviations from it.
So this brings me to Rachel Amphlett’s series. For the first book in the series, White Gold, I have some issues with the science (see What about the science?); some of it is correct but a lot of it is not. It would be difficult for a reader that doesn’t have much background in science to know the difference. I appreciate that Rachel Amphlett is focusing her series on the environmental and political impact of our energy crisis in such an engaging and entertaining manner and also showing the extremes that individuals, as well as government agencies will pursue to obtain energy reserves or financially benefit from the lack of it. I look forward to seeing more of geologist Dan Taylor and I hope at the same time to shine the light on good science.
Though the novels within the series could be read as standalones, I would suggest reading them in order.
Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Three Lives Down- because it is the most exciting of the series
Least Favorite Novel in the Series- White Gold– because of my issues with the science
What about the science?
Terminological inexactitude would be the best way to describe the science in White Gold, which is too bad because it is the most ‘sciencey’ novel in the series. In the novel, the metal ‘white gold’ has superconductive properties, as well as the capability of resulting in a nuclear explosion which is 100% make believe. White gold is simply an alloy of gold mixed with ‘white’ metals such as nickel or palladium. However, not all is lost in relation to the scientific aspect of the novel, Amphlett’s use of the term tektite is correct (see technical word in review) as it is a very dry rock.
Amphlett’s use of science does improve in Three Lives Down, as she emphasizes the use of radioactive cesium used during the fracking process. A cesium-137 source is contained within a logging tool and is used in the earliest stages of drilling a well, whether for fracking or for oil drilling, mainly to determine if the well is a producing well. It is, however, not used in the actual drilling of a well. Amphlett shines light on the potential for abuse of the cesium source. In Three Lives Down, the cesium source is damaged but in real life the source is incased in a high quality stainless steel capsule and is very small, so it is not easily damaged. So unless a bullet actually hit the source, there wouldn’t be a leak. So Amphlett does use some poetic license in dealing with the science in Three Lives Down, but the generalities are correct.
The Technical Word in Review: Tektite-Is an unusual form of natural glass, and has some similarities to obsidian, a form of volcanic glass. Most tektites are small, with dark pebble-like features, but some, like the form known as moldavites, are green with an exotic shape. Another unique feature is that they are almost devoid of any water, in fact, this feature is what separates them from natural glass formed during volcanic eruptions.
The origin of tektites is controversial and there are several theories, but the one that has the most consensus is that tektites are formed during a meteorite impact and are formed from the material that is ejected from the impact site. The ejected material is molten inflight but begins to harden before returning to the surface which gives them their unique shape.
Locations of tektites are primarily limited to four regions on the planet known as strewn fields. The Australasian strewn field is the largest and covers most of Australia and parts of Southeast Asia, the next largest is the North American strewn field with tektites being found in Georgia and Texas. The Central European strewn field contains the beautiful moldavite tektite which are located in the Czech Republic, and lastly, is the strewn field along the Ivory Coast. All strewn fields with the exception of the Australasian strewn field have an associated meteorite crater.
In places, fossils and lumps of rock jostled for space with the books, leaving crumbs of mineral deposits scattered across the shelves and mixing with the dust. Sarah picked up one of the rocks, a large black, shiny lump of stone with small holes like pinpricks dotted over the surface.
“Tektite,” Dan called out from the other side of the room. ‘Driest rock on earth.’–White Gold
Books in the Series by Order:
Most Favorite in the series: Under Fire with a score of 4.17
Least Favorite in the series: White Gold with a score of 3.92
(Does not include books that have less than 100 reviews)
Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Barnes and Nobles, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)
Dan Taylor pulled at the padded vest, reached underneath it, and flicked another shirt button.
Dan Taylor: Our main character who had been training to be a geologist but decided to go into the military to get out from the shadow of his famous geologist father.
Sarah Edgewater: Journalist and widow to geologist Peter Edgewater who had been murdered.
David Ludlow: Taylor’s former commanding officer who eventually becomes head of the Energy Protection Group
Mitch Frazer: Member of the Energy Protection Group working under David Ludlow and Taylor’s ex-military buddy.
Philippa: David Ludlow’s technical expert
Hayley Miller: Assistant editor to ABC radio and friend of Sarah Edgewater
Morris Delaney: Evil oil tycoon
United Kingdom, Australia, and Iraq
A conspiracy that will end alternative energy research; an organisation killing to protect its interests – and a bomb that will change the face of terrorism…
When Sarah Edgewater’s ex-husband is murdered by a radical organisation hell-bent on protecting their assets, she turns to Dan Taylor – geologist, ex-soldier, and lost cause. Together, they must unravel the research notes that Sarah’s ex-husband left behind to locate an explosive device that is circumnavigating the globe towards the London 2012 Olympics – and time is running out.
In a fast-paced ecological thriller that spans the globe, from London to Brisbane and back via the Arctic Circle, Dan and Sarah aren’t just chasing the truth – they’re chasing a bomb that, if detonated, will change the future of alternative energy research and the centre of England’s capital forever.
‘The communications traffic increased dramatically – particular phrases kept coming up – white gold, super-conducted precious metals.’
Looking for a review of White Gold? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.05 out of 5 stars based on 213 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.20 out of 5 stars based on 279 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 3.69 out of 5 stars based on 466 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars based on 8 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 3.50 out of 5 stars based on 3 ratings
Total Score 3.92 (updated 5/16/16)
Listed #487 out of 549 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List
Listed #151 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Science Thrillers Book List
Grant Swift pulled his keys out of his pocket and glanced through the glass doors of the atrium in the large industrial building.
Dan Taylor, David Ludlow, Mitch Frazer, and Philippa
Sheik Masoud Al-Shahiri: Qatari national who is being considered by the British government for an oil contract
Antonia Almasi: Daughter to the Sheik and computer specialist
Hugh Porchester: Secretary of State for Defence’s representative
United Kingdom and Malta
An explosion rocks a Qatari natural gas facility… a luxury cruise liner capsizes in the Mediterranean… and someone has stolen a submarine…
Are the events connected?
Dan Taylor doesn’t believe in coincidences – all he has to do is convince his superiors they are next in the terrorists’ line of fire.
As Britain enters its worst winter on record, Dan must elude capture to ensure the country’s energy resources are protected. At all costs.
In an action-packed adventure, from the Middle East through the Mediterranean to London, Dan and his team are on a quest which will test every choice he makes. Assisted by the exotic Antonia Almasi, Dan realises he faces an adversary far greater than he ever imagined.
And not everyone is going to survive.
‘Holy shit,’ said Mitch under his breath as they left the room. ‘We’re under fire from all sides.’
Looking for a review of Under Fire? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.61 out of 5 stars based on 75 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.51 out of 5 stars based on 69 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 3.88 out of 5 stars based on 187 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 3.67 out of 5 stars based on 3 ratings
Total Score 4.16 (updated 4/13/17)
Captain Matt Ryan sat with his back pressed against the hard surface of his jump seat in the back of the Mk9 Lynx helicopter, ignoring the queasiness at the pit of his stomach as the aircraft banked sharply to the right.
Dan Taylor, David Ludlow, Mitch Frazer, Sarah Edgewater, and Hugh Porchester
Melissa Harper: Computer specialist that replaces Philippa
Vasili Malikov: Russian mafia member
Dan Taylor has survived two attempts on his life. The rest of his team are missing, and now a terrorist group has stolen a radioactive isotope from a top secret government project.
Can Dan survive long enough to prevent a nuclear disaster on British soil?
With the Prime Minister determined to re-negotiate the country’s place in the European Union, and deals being struck behind closed doors, Dan stumbles across a plot that will shake the country to its core.
If his mission fails, his enemies will overthrow the British government, and Dan will be a wanted man.
If he wants to succeed, he’ll have to sacrifice everything.
Looking for a review of Three Lives Down? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.66 out of 5 stars based on 15 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.95 out of 5 stars based on 19 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.65 out of 5 stars based on 26 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings
Total Score 4.74 (updated 5/16/16)
Dan Taylor swore and ducked behind the low pock-marked wall as another hail of bullets scorched across the rough terrain towards him.
Dan Taylor, David Ludlow, and Mitch Frazer
The British Army left Iraq in 2009 after a six-year campaign alongside coalition forces. What they left behind has remained a closely guarded secret – until now.
Royal Engineer EOD operator Dan Taylor is on his last tour of duty when he is caught up in a conspiracy that will have consequences reaching far beyond the country’s war-torn borders.
With no choice but to follow orders, Dan realises that the legacy he and his commanding officer leave behind will have an unimaginable impact on the future of Iraq, and that of the British secret service.
But first, he has to survive the mission.
Looking for a review of The Legacy Device? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.41 out of 5 stars based on 12 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 18 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 3.94 out of 5 stars based on 33 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: 3.50 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings
Library Thing Rating: not rated
Total Score 4.20 (updated 1/6/17)
Dan Taylor picked up the motor sports magazine, tapped it to his forehead in salute to the café owner, and stepped out into the harsh North African summer, unaware he was being followed.
Dan Taylor is trying to keep a low profile when an old friend contacts the Energy Protection Group seeking his help.
The man’s daughter is alone in sub-Saharan Africa, and her life is in grave danger.
Thrust back into active duty, Dan soon realises that getting Anna to safety is only half his problem. The forensic accountant holds the key to preventing Western Sahara descending into chaos, and exposing the puppet masters behind a coup d’etat.
With a group of militants financed by a regime intent on acquiring mineral assets in the conflict-torn country in pursuit and willing to do anything to stop him, Dan must draw on old survival skills and luck to make sure Anna and the evidence she has in her possession reaches safety.
Behind the wire lies a secret – a secret that people will kill to protect.
‘Everything is connected,’ she said. ‘Once you’re behind the wire, you can do anything.’
Looking for a review of Behind the Wire? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.75 out of 5 stars based on 12 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.91 out of 5 stars based on 23 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.62 out of 5 stars based on 29 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: not rated
Library Thing Rating: not rated
Total Score 4.75 (updated 4/13/17)