In his sensational novel The Descent, Jeff Long created a world of stunning terror and adventure, "an imaginative tour de force" (Jon Krakauer). Now he imagines a scenario so vivid, so haunting, it anchors his place among storytelling masters.
An archaeological manhunt is raging in the holy land -- a hunt for the historical Jesus. For Nathan Lee Swift, a young American field researcher and expectant father, the line between noble discovery and the plunder of ruins is sacred -- until the night he crosses it. At a Roman landfill beneath the crucifixion grounds known as Golgotha, Nathan Lee yields to his professor's greed and turns common grave robber. His world -- his unborn daughter -- seems lost to him.
Hundreds of miles away, on the remote Greek island of Corfu, a wealthy collector pries open his latest black-market purchase -- a fourteen-inch holy relic containing a vial of blood dating back to the first century -- and unleashes a two-thousand-year-old plague. As the pandemic explodes from the Mediterranean basin and threatens to devour humankind, Nathan Lee gets a chance at redemption. He embarks on an Odyssean journey back to the United States to find his family.
Skirting the edges of the world, Nathan Lee's path finally leads him to New Mexico, where the greatest minds of science have converged at Los Alamos to find a vaccine. There Nathan Lee meets Miranda Abbot, a nineteen-year-old prodigy. As the cure continues to elude them, Miranda launches a desperate final strategy: the use of human lab rats cloned from the year zero. Nathan Lee, the thief of bones, comes face-to-face with men made from the very relics he looted, one of whom claims to be Jesus Christ, but may also be Patient Zero.
Combining the scientific precision of The Andromeda Strain with the intensity of classic adventure epics, Jeff Long takes readers on a riveting voyage through the rubble of earthquake-torn Jerusalem, the serenity of the high Himalayas, and the eerie sanctuary of Los Alamos. With Long's characteristic originality, Year Zero races against the apocalyptic clock, creating a maze of twists, astonishing atmosphere, and the clash of science and faith.
The sum of this complex tale is more than its parts of medical thriller, archeological fiction, action/adventure and doomsday scenario, as Long (The Descent) thrills with an intricate puzzle. A Greek collector of religious relics searching for artifacts from Christ's crucifixion sends samples of a powder dated to Year Zero to three foreign labs, thereby unwittingly unleashing a plague organism that races through the world's populations. Young archeologist Nathan Lee survives a murderous attack by his crooked professor, David Ochs, but lands in a Tibetan jail as the plague spreads. When the guards open the prison, Nathan makes his way through abandoned territories to Siberia and across to Alaska just ahead of the plague, heading for his daughter and divorced wife in D.C. He finds them gone and is mistaken by his old employer, the Smithsonian, as the messenger expected to take Year Zero bones from a Golgotha dig to the now fortified Los Alamos labs, where scientists are cloning humans who were crucified in the same time as Christ in hopes of finding an antibody from those who had natural resistance. Parlaying the bones for a spot in the restricted compound, Nathan is put in charge of the Golgotha clones by genius young scientist Miranda Abbot. She and Nathan become lovers and the nemeses of a mad scientist, who, along with Ochs, does fiendish things to clones and plague victims while disrupting the researchers. Long mounts one nearly impossible escape scene after another and doesn't miss a step as he builds a no-win scenario, then pulls it out. The shifting terrain is vibrantly portrayed, the religious fallout is deftly handled and the characters engage completely as they face a gruesome end to civilization in this dashing, exciting thriller.