I first heard of Jose Carlos Somoza when I reviewed his literary murder mystery “The Athenian Murders” for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002 (read my review here). I thought the book was smart, compelling, and fantastic, so was very interested in reviewing his latest novel, “Zig Zag.” I thought it to be not equally smart but exceedingly imaginative. What I wasn’t prepared for was its truly frightening story, which literally kept me in nightmares for weeks.
I reviewed it for the Miami Herald and San Francisco Chronicle, though the Herald’s is out today, first. It has been edited greatly from my original, which began with the following:
“If time travel were possible, to where and what occasion would you desire a visit? Cuban-born, Spanish author Jose Carlos Somoza recently told an interviewer that his top choices would be the age of dinosaurs and Jerusalem of Jesus’ time, so it’s not unexpected that his new novel “Zig Zag” centers on a covert government project that retrieves moments from precisely these eras.
“Though initially uncomplicated and even banausic in its methods of postponing suspense, the simplicity belies a scrupulously researched and truly terrifying scientific thriller derived from the potential horrors of our own imaginations. Staging the story in 2005 and 2015 allows Somoza to contextualize events within our post-September 11 landscape, which as one of the main characters, physicist and Professor Blanes, explains, is such that fear rules and is regularly abused, where western countries invest more in arms than science, and ‘now all we have are lies.’ “
You can read the Miami review by clicking here or on the title of this post. I dare you to read it (the book, not the review) and sleep without the lights on.