The First Horseman
Oldcastle Books, April 2013
Science is always advancing, never ending, never yielding. But these advances are expensive. The aspirin you buy for pennies today cost millions at their development. Every revolution needs a sponsor and Jim is that guy. But every revolution also has its maniacs like flies in the ointment. How far would you go for youth, for a life less ordinary? Would you sacrifice 5 billion lives so that you could live for centuries? The answer is oh so easy.
The First Horseman is a novel that is weighty in science but that doesn’t make it difficult to follow. A few squeamish scenes may have you cringing in horror but such is the harsh realties of some scientific advancements. Into this hotbed of technology enters Jim, a young billionaire who has made his money on the stock market. With more money than he could ever spend, Jim wants to spread it about and bring some happiness and an easier life to others. His motives are honourable but naïve and he displays a wilful ignorance regarding the world’s population and its consequent effect on resources. But, determined to help in some way, he visits the offices of Cardini, an eminent scientist, with the intention of funding an anti-malaria project. Whilst there, he discovers that Cardini has another project that could be potentially more worthwhile. Cardini has created a serum that regenerates body cells, making them more youthful and stronger in the process. But the manufacturing process is long winded and expensive. Cardini propositions Jim with the view of obtaining ten years funding to see if the serum can be manufactured more cheaply. But all is not as it seems. Cardini’s motives are not clear-cut and his assistant is more unhinged than Sideshow Bob on a Bart binge. What follows is a well-paced race against time to prevent a global catastrophe.
I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. What I didn’t like were the opening chapters, which I found to be too short and interfered with the flow. I know they were setting up each of the character plots but it was confusing to have the scenes jump around so often and so quickly. The early chapters are only 2-3 pages long each. This meant that just as you were getting into one scene, it would switch abruptly to another but this was only an issue with the start of the book. Once chapters became longer and changed at more natural points, it was much easier to sit back and enjoy the story. This is incredibly well written, packed full of action and interesting science that sounds believable. Personally, I would have liked a little more character development as a lot of details were hinted at but not much else divulged. Also, this ‘unnatural’ talent that Jim has for reading the stock markets seemed a little far-fetched but then again, maybe that’s just me being picky (as if I’m not picky enough). In conclusion, this is a great book that I’d recommend to others in a heartbeat….a perfectly-natural-and-not-medically-enhanced-heartbeat that is.
Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, June 2013.