Cover image of "Influx," a hard science thriller

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Big Science has made monumental strides over the past seven decades. Massive investments in scientific research have given birth to nuclear power, the unlocking of the genetic code, a deeper understanding of the structure and origin of the universe, and ever more insight into the interaction of the subatomic particles that are the basis of our reality. We now understand far better than our forebears even two generations ago the basic forces that govern our lives. But one of the most fundamental of those forces remains elusive—the force we call gravity. We accept, without fully knowing why, that we remain anchored to Planet Earth. But what if we could control gravity? Reverse it locally, making it possible for ourselves and everything in our immediate vicinity to fall up rather than down? That’s the conceit at the heart of Daniel Suarez’s hard science thriller, Influx.

Scientific breakthroughs we can only dream about

Influx is a complex tale involving scientific breakthroughs we lust after and a massive, long-running government conspiracy worthy of QAnon. Daniel Suarez is a gifted writer with a solid grounding in science and technology, so none of the advances he portrays are entirely fanciful. Except for the one at the heart of the story—the inspired insight that leads to reversing gravity. The scientist responsible is a young man named Jon Grady, a self-taught genius akin to Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla. Grady is the protagonist of the story. But Suarez tells his tale in the omniscient third person and frequently switches perspective to other characters as the action unfolds.

Influx by Daniel Suarez (2014) 417 pages ★★★★★

Graphic illustrating gravity, which is reversed in this hard science thriller
This is how we understand gravity. Scientists have a more complicated explanation. But what if they could reverse gravity locally, causing objects to fall up rather than down? Image: Samuel Velasco – Quanta Magazine

A hard science thriller about a government conspiracy

As Influx opens, Grady and his team are about to demonstrate the breakthrough to two Wall Street investors who have helped fund the work. Suddenly, the door crashes open, and a large group of masked and armed men rushes in and surrounds them. At their head is an unmasked man well known to law enforcement and the media: “the Lord’s Winnower, Richard Louis Cotton.” Cotton spouts Biblical injunctions against undermining God’s plan. But Grady and his colleagues hear little more. They’re unconscious, trussed up, and hauled away. Behind them, the huge apparatus housing their experiment explodes, and the warehouse where they were working goes up in flames.

It appears that Cotton has beat the government to the site. Because we know that a top-secret agency called the Federal Bureau of Technology Control (BTC) also had designs on Grady’s work. And it soon becomes clear that the BTC has been working since the 1960s to prevent breakthroughs in science that might disrupt American society. “We regulate innovation,” explains the BTC’s Director. “Because, in fact, humanity is far more technologically advanced than you know. The BTC is a safeguard against humanity’s worst impulses.”

Where he is imprisoned, agents for the BTC try to persuade Grady to join them—to work on perfecting his invention at a secure, secret site. When he refuses after even the most extreme pressure, they send him to a secret underground prison at a distant location. There, in a solitary cell, he becomes the subject of brutal and sadistic torture. Daniel Suarez doesn’t paint a pretty picture in Influx. But you can also expect dynamic action scenes involving the reversal of gravity. And that’s an awesome sight to behold.

About the author

Photo of Daniel Suarez, author of this hard science thriller
Daniel Suarez. Image: Mystery Sequels

Daniel Suarez’s biography on his author website reads that he “is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include Daemon, FreedomTM, Kill Decision, Influx, Change Agent, Delta-v, and the forthcoming Critical Mass. A former systems consultant to Fortune 1000 companies, he has designed and developed mission-critical software for the defense, finance, and entertainment industries. With a lifelong interest in both IT systems and creative writing, his high-tech thrilllers and science fiction focus on technology-driven change.

“Daniel is a past speaker at TED Global, MIT Media Lab, and the Long Now Foundation—among many others. Self-taught in software development, he is a graduate from the University of Delaware with a BA in English Literature. An avid PC and console gamer, his own world-building skills were bolstered through years as a pen & paper role-playing game moderator. He lives in Los Angeles, California.” All of which would seem to be the perfect background for writing a hard science thriller like Influx.

I’ve also reviewed two other exciting books by Daniel Suarez:

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