Maze Master by Kathleen O’Neal Gear fulfills my requirements for a great read. Brilliantly linking the past with a possible future, she lays the groundwork for a thrilling and terrifying apocalyptic journey. At first, I was slightly daunted by the scientific and mathematical references in the story. But, Gear skillfully provides plenty of clarification for even the most intimidated reader.
Gradually linking what at first glance seem unlikely characters, Gear takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride that binds a cryptographer, a historian, and a geneticist in a desperate race to find a cure for a disease that could potentially wipe out humanity.
When a retrovirus, Lucent B, begins to spread worldwide at a frightening pace, scientists struggle to find a cure, countries try to set up borders to prevent the spread, and conflicts reach staggering proportions. Few people know that US leaders were warned by a gifted geneticist, James Hakari, that Armaggedeon was coming. But the vehicle for disaster is a thousands year old virus that explodes in a world unprepared for it. His former student, Anna Asher, sets out to find the lost Marham-i-Isa, purportedly the ointment used by Jesus to cure all illness and even raise the dead. She manages to enlist the recalcitrant religious studies and paleographer Dr. Martin Nadai to join her in her quest. At first unwilling, Asher appeals to his lifelong search for the Marham-i-Isa. Following clues left by Hakari, who has disappeared, they set out for the Middle East. This is particularly challenging as Hakari may be a genius, but he is also insane. Are they following a trail that could lead to the salvation of humankind or are they following the delusional clues of a mysteriously missing scientist?
Added to this mix is a Special Ops soldier, Micah Hazor. Efficient but compromised by injury, he seems to be immune to Lucent B. Indications are he has been inoculated against the disease, but by whom and why?
As the layers peel back, the reader is confronted by questions of faith, mortality, and trust in the government. What evolves is a tale that reaches back to a dormant virus that might be as much as seventy-five thousand years old. HERV-K has “caused several plagues” over thousands of years. Does it lie in wait in some as yet undiscovered remains, only requiring release by an unsuspecting explorer? HERV-K does exist. That knowledge alone makes this novel chilling.
Once again, Kathleen O’Neal Gear pulls aside the curtain between past and present to reveal the links that bind our history with our future. Maze Master is a thriller that goes far beyond anything written by Dan Brown, Robin Cook, or Michael Crichton. Gear has combined factual history with dark forewarnings. A must read.