Ripple (Breakthrough #4), by Michael C. Grumley

Eight stars

Michael C. Grumley returns to further explore the evolution of mammals, as well as their interconnectivity in this stunning series. Pushing a little science fiction alongside his captivating narrative, Grumley takes the reader on a deeper and more intense journey with each new novel in the collection. The action is intense, as the Russians are now eager to get their hands on whatever is rocking the genetic world, while the Chinese remain on guard and want what they felt was theirs all along. While Alison and John try to settle in Trinidad, they realise that it is Africa (specifically Rwanda) that might hold the key to this life force, while also helping them to better understand the evolution of the human race all those millennia ago. There’s also some understanding of what the foreign DNA source can do for humans, which has both positive and negative side effects for all involved. This is surely another winner by Michael C. Grumley, perfect for series fans and those who want an impactful novel that will open the mind and eyes simultaneously.

There is no end to the chills that have filled the past two novels, particularly when the Russians realise that there is something going on under their noses. While one of their submarines was destroyed as they watched Chinese officials collect some plant life, they are certain that it can be something beneficial to them. The Russians, still lurking under the water, prepare to strike and take what they feel is theirs to possess, but they do not yet fully understand it or what powers it could possess.

The Chinese know all too well what this is and they want it back. In a new and intensified geo-political fight, Chinese authorities are ready to take what they feel was theirs to begin with, using force and whatever they can to ensure no one else gets hold of their prized biological (and botanical) find. It is sure to cause some trouble, but the Chinese are ready to do whatever it takes.

All the while, Alison Shaw and John Clay are part of a new and highly secretive team tasked with better understanding some of their earlier discoveries with communication, life outside Earth, and some of the aforementioned highly sought-after intel. When aliens came to Earth all those years ago, they left the lifeblood of humanity, weaving it not only into some early mammals, but also depositing it in a vault of sorts. This is why dolphins, gorillas, and humans have so many similarities, something that Shaw and some of her other biologists are discovering again as they watch the interactions with their respective subjects. Dolphins Sally and Dirk appear to be making headway in their communication with one another and Alison, but adding Dulce, a gorilla, to the mix opens even more avenues of study.

While Shaw and Clay concentrate their time in Trinidad, it is not long before they realise that it is the African continent that holds all the secrets they must uncover. Trekking there, it is first thought that Ethiopia is where they ought to be, but soon discover that Rwanda, still teetering on the brink from recent civil war, is where the true discoveries exist. Working to further some gorilla research that has taken place, Shaw and the IMIS team venture to the region, where they learn more about gorillas and their impact on the larger mammalian advancements on Earth.

The stakes are high with both the Chinese and Russians ramping up their efforts to take what they want and leave a massacre if that is what’s needed. Shaw and Clay are not safe, nor are the discoveries they have uncovered. Add to that, a young woman, Lei Na, remains a sought after commodity in her native China, as she possesses a unique strain of DNA inside her, saved by her father before he died doing what he felt was right for all. It’s more intensity in a series that has never lacked it. And there is so much more I did not cover, best revealed by the reader when they dive in!

Michael C. Grumley baffles many as he constructs a highly-detailed and easy to digest series with this collection of well-paced novels. Each book pushes the limits of scientific possibilities without becoming too ‘out there’, even as some readers whine because it is not cut and dry enough for them. Science fiction has never been my strong suit, but I have made an effort to relax my guard and allowed a moment to learn, which has been effective in allowing me to become highly addicted to this series. I am drawn to the plots with a great deal of action, particularly as they include strong characters. Grumley has discovered a great recipe of captivating plot lines, unique scientific discoveries, and much action to keep the reader fully engaged.

The book offers series fans many characters on which to connect, some being series-long protagonists, while others are minor folk who have stepped into the limelight. I thoroughly enjoy how Grumley has been able to balance development with an ever-complex plot, not losing the reader with so many personalities to juggle. Some great story arcs are emerging, both in the scientific world and personal development of some, especially Alison Shaw and John Clay. I continue to watch their advancements, as well as some of the interaction they have with others, all while trying to keep everyone straight and clear without a formal flow chart. It may be tough, but the challenge keeps me on my toes.

The secondary characters Grumley peppers throughout the story have become the political actors. They serve the primary role of advancing the ego-political clashes that technology that reap, keeping the reader who enjoys that aspect of writing on their toes. While I can never be sure if there will others, an American-Chinese-Russian political triangle can do enough damage and I am keen to see how Grumley will handle it.

Grumley keeps the story strong and the ideas flowing in another novel that interconnects with the previous three. The narrative advanced well and kept the reader seeking more with each chapter, providing moments of education in the scientific aspects of the plot. There is so much to digest, though it is not tossed at the reader simultaneously, permitting a great development over all four novels, though for some it might be a little much to take in. There’s great character development, both in the narrative and strong dialogue, allowing Grumley to craft those the reader will surely enjoy, while there are others who will surely be despised for their own reasons. Grumley again uses a mix of chapter lengths to trap the reader into staying up well into the night, stringing them along at key moments. I remain baffled as to why I am so enthralled with this series, but have no complaints whatsoever.

Kudos, Mr. Grumley, for another strong read. Where are you taking us next?!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: