The Life Engine by Rick Baker is a pulse-pounding and thought-provoking thriller about two mismatched people on the run from the American government and a sadistic killer. Ian Wolfe is a down-on-his-luck former CIA agent who is tasked with investigating April Gentry, a female Indiana Jones and then some, who has access to a life-saving plant in the Amazon rainforest. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t so interested in having this come to market, and send an assassin to rectify the problem. Meanwhile, an associate of April hacks into a government database and downloads top secret information. Ian and April become closer as seemingly everyone else wants something from them, including their lives.
The Life Engine is a political novel without hitting you over the head with it. It touches on issues such as big pharma, global warming, indigenous cultures, and more, while still being heavily laced with action. It’s a fairly complex novel, with many characters and subplots, but it still manages to hold together with a brisk pace. Baker clearly has a passion for his subject and his characters.
Baker is especially good at portraying larger-than-life characters that do not take too much of a suspension of disbelief. April Gentry, for one, is an Indian Jones figure, but not a cartoonish one: Baker gives great detail to her life, making her a fully-realized and sympathetic heroine. The other characters are similarly fleshed out. The plot overall benefits from this attention to detail.
A good addition to the growing eco-thriller genre.