Terry Wright,
The 13th Power
(Gardenia Press, 2001)

What is The 13th Power? It has to do with proving the existence of the Higgs field. To quote Terry Wright, the author of this novel, the Higgs field "binds the universe and the atom with a unified force." To paraphrase what is in the novel, this is a space within the atom where the rules of math do not apply as we know them. Positive equals negative, for example. Power over this field would enable man to turn lead into gold. What if someone could prove the existence of the Higgs field and then manipulate it to gain unlimited power?

In this story, we have a nuclear physicist, a brilliant mathematician and a top-notch computer programmer searching for this elusive proof. We have an evil ex-archaeologist who hired these men to discover the 13th Power so that he might ultimately gain control over the universe. Then there is the governmental entity known as The Ark that has designs on the technology to be used as a weapon. With the book being slightly less than 400 pages, I thought I was getting ready to read some Tom Clancy light.

I was wrong. If this book were made in to a movie, it would be one of those action flicks staring someone like Steven Seagal. In other words, there are a lot of explosions and a lot of killing, but not much of a story and no real character development. Every couple of pages someone else is getting killed or chased or fed to starving, flesh-eating kangaroo rats. I think my favorite scene was when a Cobra helicoptor fired several sidewinders at police cars. I guess I was mistaken when I thought those were air-to-air missles. (As Terry used to be in the Air Force, I am sure he knows more about these missiles than I do.) To be honest, all this action becomes monotonous after a while. On the bright side, the chapters are very short. I believe there is only one chapter over ten pages and most are under five.

None of the characters are believable. My least favorite is the physicist's daughter, Lisa. Here is a girl who cries and is practically helpless one chapter, while in the next she is using her martial arts skills to kick bad-guy ass. Then she starts whining again. Suddenly, she knows how to drive an 18-wheeler rig. This character had no consistency. Looking at the mathematician, Janis, we are introduced to a quiet, middle-aged university professor who needs money to help provide care for his ailing mother. Before long, he experiences one harrowing adventure after another. Most of us would never have survived all that this man went through -- car and helicoptor chases, gunfire, explosions, hit men and more. Yet somehow he survives. Do mathematicians have better survival odds than the rest of us?

Unless you are a die-hard action fan or know any Seagal fans who can read, I would not recommend purchasing this book. In fact, I would wait until the movie comes out. Then, instead of not wasting a day reading this drivel, you could simply not waste a couple hours watching a silly movie. But to be fair, since I did give myself high expectations based on the story's description, I should state that for those of you who want something mindless, quick-paced and easy to read for an airplane trip (or something similar where you need to kill time), The 13th Power might be perfect. And for those readers who actually enjoy the tale, you'll be happy to know that Terry has written a second episode. Fortunately, I will not be reviewing it.

[ by Wil Owen ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.