Review: The Mandala

The Mandala (Timothy R. O’Neill, Publish Green) is an airport thriller with an SF premise. In the badlands of northern Montana there appears something that produces gravitational pulses powerful enough to perturb satellite orbits, and drives people who wander too near it insane. Satellite imagery reveals a vast, intricate pattern of subtle changes in the ground surrounding the site, with no correlates at all from ground level. Something about it has spooked the Russians enough that there are rumblings of nuclear threat. Can the enigma be solved before it triggers atomic apocalypse..or worse?

Many tropes of the airport thriller genre duly check in – an alphabet soup of secret government agencies, a maverick hero with a troubled past, ancient conspiracies, a race against time to uncover a world-shattering secret.

The SF premise works OK, but the real reason to bother with this one is unexpected: the dialogue is brilliant and funny! The characters do not speak in the usual bureaucratese or action-hero grunting; they’re as nervously, mordantly witty as escapees from a Noel Coward play.

This bit of style seemed as incongruous as a camouflage pattern in day-glo colors at first, but I got used to it and spent much of the rest of the book periodically succumbing to did-he-really-write-that giggles, occasionally regaling my wife with the choicest bits. And when was the last time you read an airport thriller with laugh-out-loud lines?

7 thoughts on “Review: The Mandala

  1. Your review was the first for MANDALA. You obviously read the whole thing–it’s not an easy task, and requires the reader’s trust. My first novel (in the 80’s!), SHADES OF GRAY, had a similar reception. I appreciate the confidence; since it doesn’t fit into a neat genre, my agent suggested I publish as an ebook and see what happened. So we shall see what happens.

  2. I enjoy this type of work when done well. It’s often done well, and often…not.

    _The Rock_ by Bob Mayer did a reasonably good job.

    Dan Brown’s best work was his first, _Angels and Demons_; _Da Vinci Code_ was not as good (there weren’t any codes in the book that I could see!), and _Lost Symbol_ started well but ended on a whimper.

    And then there are the rollicking fun ones like _Saucer_ (Stephen Coonts) and its sequel _Saucer: The Conquest_.

    I’d love to hear more suggestions of good books on the puzzle/thriller theme, especially those that are also good SF.

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