In this novel, Mark Longo weaves a wonderful story that combines action, adventure, science, philosophy, anthropology and religion. Documentary film maker Jared Foster drives his specially-equipped truck from Colorado to Guatemala. He is an ecology activist, with the goal of filming a virgin rain-forest, to help save it from development. Chris Burgeis, a doctoral student in anthropology, accompanies Jared on the trip. His specialty--in Mayan civilization--helps to untangle a few of the puzzles they encounter along the way.
But, in addition to finding the rain-forest, they encounter a secret army and biology laboratory scientists headed by insane biologist Reino. Reino is a genius, an incredible athlete, and a giant of a man. He is a formidable opponent for Jared, even though they seem to have similar philosophies and outlooks.
The "adventure" part of the novel is gripping, and kept me turning the pages--I couldn't put the book down. But the best parts of the book are the philosophical and scientific discussions that occur during various levels of the plot. On the title page is a picture of the fractal Mandelbrot set, and I wondered at first why it was printed there. But I soon realized that a major theme of the novel is "emergence", that is, the ability of simple structures--like an ant or a nonlinear equation--to combine to give rise to complex behavior. The Mandelbrot set is an example of an emergent system. Another major theme is ecology, and the damage that people are doing to the environment. At times, the book becomes a bit too preachy about this subject--but maybe we need some preaching.