Darwins Cipher By M.A. Rothman


Juan Gutierrez, a cancer researcher, has spent years studying the genome of animals that exhibit immunity to some types of cancer. Over the course of his study, Juan discovers a pattern that allows him to predict the course of a species' evolution across thousands of generations.

Using the algorithm he's developed from the pattern, Juan uncovers what he believes to be the key to conquering humanity's susceptibility to cancer.

Others are interested in using what Juan has dubbed Darwin's Cipher, however, instead of cancer research, they see very different applications for the new genetic algorithm.

Nate Carrington, an FBI forensic analyst has been struggling with several cold cases when he's alerted to an incident at a nearby ranch. It's a case of a newborn calf who is found in the middle of a herd of dead cattle. It provides a single link to Nate's other cold cases: the DNA analysis of the calf doesn't match anything in the FBI's database.

Somewhere in a rural hospital in West Virginia, four hospital workers are dead and a newborn child has been transported to the NIH's level-4 bio-containment unit.

It's only when the NIH sends out an alert to all hospitals and law enforcement agencies that the world realizes the danger that faces them. Darwins Cipher

The advances in genetics over the last couple of decades has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Treatments for diseases, screening for genetic illnesses, to name but two. It has also opened up an entire litany of concerns about what might happen if the power to alter the basic building blocks of life should be misused, either by accident or design. Looking at just such possibilities is Darwin Cipher's, a new techno-thriller from writer M.A. Rothman.

Rothman reads likes a cross between two different masters of the techno-thriller genre: Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. Like Clancy's works, Darwin's Cipher has a large cast of characters with plots that are seemingly unconnected from one another until suddenly they click together like a jigsaw puzzle. The intersection of intelligence, law enforcement, government, and private industry (in this case the biomedical industry) all come into play as well. While the jigsaw nature of the plot does mean that the book gets off to a slow start (and suddenly jumps ahead in time after a few chapters), once it gets going the pace rarely lets up.

Of the two, it's Crichton's influence that's felt on the page. Via cancer researcher Juan Gutierrez, Rothman takes readers into the biomedical world and gene therapy. Though I felt like I had a handle on the basics before reading the novel, it still offered an engaging crash course to the field and the opportunities that are just around the corner. Thankfully though, with one deliberate and notable exception, there isn't much lecturing on the topics at hand. Instead, Rothman (and his character) gives the reader enough to not only follow the plot but raise the stakes at just the right moments. It's an easy to grasp science lesson, masterfully wrapped up in a thriller plot.

It also helps that the myriad of characters is just as engaging as the plot. Juan Gutierrez makes for an engaging protagonist, an idealist seeking a cure for cancer, only to discover what his work is capable of, for both better and worse. There are the various members of the O'Reilly family including rancher father Frank and college student daughter Katherine, FBI investigator Nate Carrington, and Juan's bosses at the company who all make for compelling and believable players in the drama. Together, they bring to life and populate the novel's world, making it all the more believable by adding a human dimension to proceedings.

Having said all that, I did find myself having a couple of minor quibbles with the novel. One I mentioned earlier which was the slow start to proceedings, four chapters or so before a sudden jump in time that takes readers to the rest of the narrative. While not against the idea, why it was necessary is never made clear, and the result is slightly jarring. Another occasional issue comes with the dialogue where there is a slight tendency for characters to talk in paragraphs at times, even during non-expositional instances. That crops up a few times but not often enough to take away from the overall effect of the piece. There are also what seems to be a few loose ends left at the end as well, though I can forgive those if there's a potential sequel in the works involving these characters.

For those seeking out a good thriller, especially on the techno end of the genre, Darwin's Cipher is an excellent choice. It combines the best of the genre's masters with an up to the minute topic, a combination of the technical with plot and characters that, despite a slow start, turns into a riveting ride. It's a tale of the promise tomorrow might hold but also the dangers we might face. It might cause a sleepless night or two, albeit for all the best reasons.

And what more can you ask of a good book?

(I received a Kindle edition of the novel in return for an honest review.) Darwins Cipher Adult scary smart technothriller

This story was riveting. A research scientist has his theory stolen and used for nefarious purposes. And, in a somewhat small way, it is a love story. Got you hooked yet? It will! Darwins Cipher WOW! This is my fist book by M.A. ROTHMAN, and I am really impressed with this medical/scientific thriller. This book has a fascinating plot – involving the nefarious use of cutting-edge cancer research using gene therapy – the research stolen from the scientist and used by “bad guys” trying to create cutting edge bio-weapons. I like science-fiction, but this isn’t sci-fi – this is a medical, scientific thriller. This writer makes the science very understandable. And as a physician, the gene therapy is totally plausible. The characters are very interesting. The author interweaves at least three different plots, with the characters intersecting at various crossroads in the plot. The prose is excellent, and the dialogue is equally good. This reminds me of the best of Michael Crighton, and Robin Cook, and the very recent Tim Tigner's THE PRICE OF TIME. Darwins Cipher Darwin's Cipher is based on an interesting idea. GMO's (a timely boogeyman to pick on) have learned how to modify the DNA of existing animals in an attempt at designer weapons. The scientist who invented the technology is unaware of the nefarious uses it is being put toward, wanting only to benefit mankind by creating a bigger, badder, human who is impervious to the ravages of disease.

We are shown the effects of military intervention in science. Of course, the military wants to weaponize the research, with predictably disastrous results. The plot is basically a race to save mankind from its own folly.

The story, while well-conceived, is poorly executed, in my opinion. Yes, it's readable, if you can ignore the flat characters and jerky scene changes. What I had the most problem with is the series of unbelievable coincidences which brought all the main characters into a tight circle.

First, a dog, who is an escapee from the military experiments, finds a rancher to adopt him. The rancher's daughter just happens to get stranded on a deserted island where the company which discovered the genetic modification protocols just happens to be housing a flock of genetically modified killer finches. Her boyfriend disappears, never to be heard from again, presumably killed by finches and then the evidence is incinerated by the military. She then gets a payoff from the company responsible so she won't tell anyone about the killer finches, which enables her to attend college all the way on the other side of the country, where she just happens to meet the scientist who discovered the DNA modifying capabilities. When her father is diagnosed with cancer, she just happens to call the scientist to ask for help. The scientist just happens to be at lunch with the man who stole his work and gave it to the military, who then tells the scientist to tell the girl that her father can join a test study which just happens to be going on near him and just happens to include testing a drug against his specific type of cancer.

Seriously, there's more but I'm tired of typing just happens . . .

If wildly improbable coincidences don't bother you in a plot, then you'll probably like this book.

Unless . . . a flaw in the basic premise of the entire story bugs you as much as it did me. Read on.

The flaw in the premise of this story is that genetic evolution doesn't occur in a vacuum. Rothman wants us to believe that predictable genetic mutations will occur without any outside pressures to encourage their reproduction. This goes against everything Darwin believed. Natural selection, which was Darwin's hypothesis, occurs when a naturally occurring mutation of an individual member of a species gives that individual an advantage over the rest of its species. If one elephant is immune to a certain abundant poisonous plant, that elephant has a food source with no competition, giving it an advantage over the rest of the elephants. If that particular elephant mates and passes on its immunity to its offspring, those offspring will also have an advantage. Over time, as generation after generation of these immune elephants multiply, and if non-poisonous vegetation becomes scarce, eventually, they will survive where other elephants won't. This is natural selection. Coats which are colored to blend in with their surroundings give animals advantages in not being as easy to spot by predators or prey, thus making them more likely to survive and reproduce, passing on this safer coloring on to future generations. This is natural selection.

In Rothman's world, simply decoding the genetic markers for certain traits and modifying them would replicate evolution. Yet without any biological imperative to adapt and change, genes will remain static. Without the addition of new DNA from a mate, genes will simply clone themselves.

Now, I don't pretend to be an expert in genetic research or gene splicing, but this whole premise lacks realism for me. It's possible I simply didn't understand what Rothman was trying to get across, but if that's the case, then I place the blame squarely on Rothman for not making his writing clearer.

In the end, I leave it up to you to decide if this is a book you want to read. For me, I won't be reading any more of Rothman's work. Darwins Cipher The Cretaceous-Tertiary or K/T extinction event. It happened 65 million years ago. It was a six mile meteor that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, just off Mexico. It ended the reign of the Dinosaurs and wiped the Earth of vegetation. Yet small mammals , with frontal vision, who lived underground, survived to bring us to where we are today. Darwin would call it Natural Selection, part of evolution. But, what if one could speed-up DNA evolution? What if science could cause Natural Selection in a matter of generations instead of millions of generations?

In a valiant effort to alleviate cancer, the main character in Rothman’s superb novel, Juan Gutierrez thinks the same way. In the thrilling novel “Darwin’s Cipher” by M.A. Rothman. Juan has found an algorithm to speed-up DNA selection:

“…. As you probably know, modern elephants are highly resistant to tumors. They have many extra copies of TP53, a known tumor-suppressor gene. So I wanted to see how that evolved. Then I stumbled onto the pattern I told you about, and it suddenly dawned on me that if I could predictably follow the pattern of all of these different extinct animals and study how various parts of their genetic code evolved, couldn’t I, using the same algorithm, simulate how our genes will evolve in the future?”

.The results are sometimes bizarre: birds behave more like crocs, for example. The group who watches these results napalms their mistakes. Of course we have the innocent victims of mistakes, and the evil characters who want to steal the algorithm. It becomes a race, well plotted and well resolved. You have to read the book for that information, as there are no spoilers here.

What I want to point out is the author’s effective writing methods. They are sharp and clear and I enjoyed the pace of the prose. Mr. Rothman puts the reader mis-en-scene, that is, he arranges, instead of introducing his characters with staccato snapshots, in full action, to allow us to connect to them quickly, and to their place in his multilayered plot.

The research makes us believe the events, and Mr. Rothman tells us he is scientific.. By use of acronyms and scientific dialogues, he puts us, the observers, directly on the edge of the action. Note the pacing, natural speech and the mix of science in this scene, where the birds are detected as not really birds:

“… There was one item that came back with utterly bizarre results. That fluffy bit of red feather you found. From its morphology, I managed to narrow it down to a few species, and when I did a DNA analysis, that’s when things went south. I’m not one hundred percent sure what kind of bird it was, but it looks a lot like a Gouldian finch—same basic feather structure, coloring, and size—but if so, there’s something way wrong with the DNA results. “
“You’re saying you couldn’t get a DNA match to the feather?” Hendrickson shook his head. “Nope. And , the DNA would suggest this creature is closer to a crocodile than to anything having wings and feathers”
“So… what are you saying?” “I’m saying, I think someone’s been playing God.”

When Juan explains his DNA technique, the writing is almost textbook:

“Well, for example, the woolly mammoth.” Juan flipped a page and tapped his finger on a graph. “Its diploid genome has approximately 9.4 billion base pairs—that’s almost fifty percent more genetic material than humans, which the computer encoded into the equivalent of about 2.3 gigabytes of data. I did comparative analyses, normalizing the source to the same general vicinity in Siberia, and using various samples from different points in time along their evolutionary history. My oldest sample is nearly one hundred thousand years old, and I also have samples from seventy-five thousand years ago, forty thousand years, and fourteen thousand years. I mapped those changes against the local environmental conditions from where the samples were found.”

But the method is about to be given to humans with cancer. This is the second part of the saga, and it is worth reading just for the results! If you liked “The Stand” by King, or anything by Michael Crichton,.you will like this novel.

His approach to all the scenes is exact, and I don’t think there’s a wasted word in this novel. I have read many science novels, and this is among the best, to me. The blend of science, social interaction and discovery, for the characters and the reader are selected, stirred and presented in a literate, thoughtful manner. In this case, I salute the author as artist! Splendid job Mr. Rothman! And he sums it in his author’s note: “I’m one of the most unlikely novelists you’ll ever encounter.” He is, readers!

Darwins Cipher

M.A. Rothman ✓ 9 Read & Download

I am not a medical thriller fan. I haven’t read a book in this genre that I liked. So when I was approached with an invite to review Darwin’s Cipher, I was hesitant. But then I read the blurb, and my interest was caught. So I accepted. I am happy I did because this book was fantastic.

The plot with Juan made me both angry and sad at the same time. I was sad because he poured his life into researching a cure for cancer. I was mad because people were using his research in the wrong ways. I was interested in seeing what went on behind the scenes in a research lab. The author was able to capture the sacrifices researches make in their quest to find a cure.

The plotline involving Nate and his investigation was interesting. It was interesting to see what he was going up against in his investigation. The scene where the evidence disappeared from the locker was huge. Like he said, how does evidence disappear from a protected federal agency?

Frank and Katie’s plotline showed a 3rd side to what was going on. It was refreshing to see everything happen from a regular person’s point of view. Every thing that Frank, and then Katie went through, horrified me. Even now, I get shivers thinking about it.

All the main characters in Darwin’s Cipher were well written. I was able to form a connection to them. They were 3d. Everytime I thought I had a character figured out, another layer would be revealed. Loved it.

Out of the three main characters, I’d have to say that I liked Katie the best. She was an ordinary woman caught up in something that bigger than her. Her actions and reactions would be close to what I would do. I also liked how her character developed throughout the book. She started as an immature girl and ended up as a mature woman.

Juan was a force of nature in this book. He was passionate about his research. The author did a fantastic job of portraying that. He sacrificed so much to get where he was. My only fault with him was that he had tunnel vision about his career. But, that passion came in handy at the end of the book.

Nate was the only character in the book that I felt I could have gotten to know better. Still, I liked him.

The secondary characters in Darwin’s Cipher added depth to the book. I will include the dog in with the secondary characters. Not saying why. Need to read the book to find out.

The bad guys gave me chills. While I understood why one of the bad guys did what he did, I couldn’t get past it. The other bad guys were evil. There were surprises about them, though. A couple of people who I thought were in on it wasn’t. And a person who I thought was on Juan’s side wasn’t.

Darwin’s Cipher does get technical. I don’t even begin to understand lab procedures. There was also technical jargon that made me go “huh.” I was able to google/use my Kindle dictionary to look that stuff up.

I wasn’t a fan of the Juan/Katie romance in the book. It did make sense at the end of the book. It fueled Juan to do what he did. But, I didn’t like it.

The end of Darwin’s Cipher was a nail biter for me. The author had everything happening so quickly that I almost couldn’t keep up reading. I had to reread pages so I could process what was happening. The way the book ended had me wondering if there was going to be another book.

I would give Darwin’s Cipher an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Darwin’s Cipher. I would also reccomend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review Darwin’s Cipher.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book** Darwins Cipher Very interesting premise of messing with genes to try and cure cancer with unintended consequences.

What I liked:
-Multiple storylines coming together.
-Great premise, very creative in a science kind of way.
-Good characters

What I didn't like:
-I felt it slowed down a little at the end

Over all very good. Darwins Cipher ‘Who knows what lurks in the unknown recesses and genetic combinations that are possible?’

Author M.A (Michael) Rothman is the first member of his family to be born in the United States. His Hungarian grandfather was a WW II refugee and his family fled the Nazi occupation. Michael is an engineer who focuses on computer technology – system software design – and his designs are embedded in all modern computers distributed be the major companies in the world. He has stated ‘Whether it is deeply embedded devices such as missile guidance systems or vehicle navigation systems or general-purpose PCs such as laptops or even gaming consoles, I’ve worked with just about all types of “computers” throughout my career’. As for his writing, he has published three books to date – PRIMORDIAL THREAT, PERIMETER, and DARWIN’S CIPHER – each with themes of technology and international intrigue. .

The polished skill with which Michael relates his intriguing and immensely involving story showcases both his mastery of technology as well as his obvious travels and knowledge of global intrigue. But he steps further into the spotlight with his introduction of chief character Juan Gutierrez by not only making him a brilliant scientist but one coping with an important unknown: ‘Juan had long ago understood just how lucky he was. Not only had he managed to escape the projects of East LA – a rare feat – but he had completed both college and medical school, and now here he was doing cancer research for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world…Cancer had taken both his parents from him, and those deaths had shaped the man he was today. His father’s death had filled Juan with an unstoppable drive, and his mother had given him the desire to prevent others suffering from the same hideous disease. He was driven by a single-minded obsession. To find a cure for cancer.’

It is this quality of prose that carries his novel to success. The plot is well outlined in the synopsis – ‘Juan Gutierrez, a cancer researcher, has spent years studying the genome of animals that exhibit immunity to some types of cancer. Over the course of his study, Juan discovers a pattern that allows him to predict the course of a species' evolution across thousands of generations. Using the algorithm he's developed from the pattern, Juan uncovers what he believes to be the key to conquering humanity's susceptibility to cancer. Others are interested in using what Juan has dubbed Darwin's Cipher, however, instead of cancer research, they see very different applications for the new genetic algorithm. Nate Carrington, an FBI forensic analyst has been struggling with several cold cases when he’s alerted to an incident at a nearby ranch. It’s a case of a newborn calf who is found in the middle of a herd of dead cattle. It provides a single link to Nate's other cold cases: the DNA analysis of the calf doesn't match anything in the FBI's database. Somewhere in a rural hospital in West Virginia, four hospital workers are dead and a newborn child has been transported to the NIH's level-4 bio-containment unit. It's only when the NIH sends out an alert to all hospitals and law enforcement agencies that the world realizes the danger that faces them’.

At the end of the novel Michael offers some scientific factual information that heightens the readers interest – frightening but true. Writing of this caliber, having created a mesmerizing lead character whose skills as a human being are staggering, suggests that this book could easily be adapted as a screenplay for a fine motion picture. Having read all of Michael superb novels this reader awaits the inevitable screenplay transformation. Highly Recommended. Darwins Cipher For a free, kindle recommended book, this is surprisingly great. It reminds me of early Grisham but with the medical field instead of law. I'm hoping this new author has more. Darwins Cipher Ever since the mid-twentieth century geneticists and molecular biologists have been mucking around in the human genetic code. Medical researchers have been seeking ways to cure diseases or prevent them entirely. Others have been toying with techniques to heighten critical elements in our physiological or psychological makeup such as intelligence or strength. Yet other scientists envision altering human physiology to adapt us for life on other planets with dramatically different atmospheric conditions. Meanwhile, a code of ethics has been widely adopted among researchers to prevent missteps that might bring tragic consequences. However, sometimes . . . well, accidents happen. And this thoughtful and inventive novel explores one such fraught development when genetic research goes awry.

Dr. Juan Gutierrez, a brilliant medical researcher, is pursuing a novel line of inquiry for his employer, the pharmaceutical giant Agrimed Global. Despite belt-tightening at the company, the director of research protects his position because he sees promise in Juan’s unorthodox approach. And Juan has set his sights on nothing less than a genetic cure for cancer.

Early on, we know that genetic research has gone awry

Meanwhile, at a secret Air Force base in the Nevada desert, a wandering Marine is set upon and killed by a pair of enormous dogs. Somehow, the German Federal Intelligence Service is involved—and organizes a coverup of the murder. To investigate a vague report of the incident, veteran FBI Special Agent Nate Carrington is dispatched from his base at Quantico. Nate is a member of the “Evidence Response Team Unit, the world-renowned FBI forensics lab,” but he turns up nothing other than a list of unanswered questions.

Near the Air Force base an older couple, Frank and Megan O’Reilley, come across a huge Labrador retriever on their cattle ranch. Megan names the dog Jasper. She has fallen instantly in love with him. And so does their daughter Kathy, who returns home from Alaska after her fiancé has died a grisly death when their sailboat took shelter at a private island in the Pacific. After escaping with her life—and a $200,000 payment to keep her mouth shut about what she has seen on the island—Kathy wants nothing more than to hide and reexamine her life.

Genetic research goes awry

As the story unfolds, the lives of Juan, Nate, and Kathy will intersect in dramatic ways. And they will all become caught up in a race against time to prevent a looming catastrophe unleashed by the theft and misuse of Juan’s research.

About the author

M. A. (Michael) Rothman describes himself as “one of the most unlikely novelists you’ll ever meet.” He’s an engineer with a background in the sciences. He has written eight books. Darwins Cipher