I received a free copy of this book to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 22 April 2014.
In the author’s note at the end of The Furies, Mark Alpert writes that he was inspired to write this tale after researching the horrors of the Salem Witch Trials and the Burning Times. The fact that most of the victims of these attacks were women resonated with him. He wondered what caused the fear and prejudice. But from that background and that question, Alpert creates a strange thriller involving a family with a genetic mutation that causes the women to live much, much longer than men. The women in the Fury family use their long lives to try and make the world a better place, but they’ve frequently fallen afoul of churches, governments, and their neighbors.
The Furies begins with a prologue, in which a Fury woman and her daughter flee their home in 1646, just ahead of torch-wielding villagers. Alpert then jumps almost 400 years to present day New York. John Rogers is getting a drink in a bar after striking out at a job fair. Across the room, he sees a redheaded woman with great legs. He’s surprised when she seems just as interested in him. John thinks its his lucky day when she invites him back to her hotel room in a run down part of Bushwick. Before they can do much more than get naked, John and Ariel are attacked. They manage to escape, but Ariel’s bodyguards are killed and Ariel is wounded.
Though he’s a former gang member, John fills the role of hero perfectly as he escorts Ariel on a race back to her home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Ariel tries to keep her secrets, but more and more of her family’s strange history and abilities leak out. We also learn more about the men chasing Ariel. It seems there was a schism in the family. Ariel’s half-brother, Sullivan, wants the women’s secret to immortality and is willing to use violence, the FBI, and bombs to get what he wants.
The Furies is not so much a science fiction novel as it is a thriller. There are science fiction elements—genetic mutations, drones, caverns filled with laboratories, secret protein formulae, etc.—there are many more thriller elements and tropes here. There are chases (one involving a ferry), numerous gunfights, the aforementioned bombs, and FARC guerrillas. The Furies is an interesting blend of the two genres. I’m not sure I buy the genetic mutations parts of the plot, but that’s only because it’s on the far-fetched side of science fiction for me. Alpert travels far from his original inspiration to deliver a fast, entertaining read.