Trying to summarize The Thousand would be only slightly easier than attempting to herd a pack of cats across a rushing river. How can one adequately summarize a book that includes as major plot points Mozart’s infamously unfinished Requiem in D Minor, Greek mathematician / philosopher Pythagoras, experimental brain implants, a ten-year-old murder case, a manufactured blackout of Chicago, and an ancient conspiracy guarded by a secret society known as the Thousand?
Right, you can’t. So let’s just get on to why it all works. Brilliantly. Author Kevin Guilfoile has the amazing ability to create perfect order out of what should rightfully be utter chaos. He takes multiple, complicated plot lines and seamlessly weaves them into an almost suffocatingly intense blanket of action and suspense.
He does this in large part with his absolutely pitch-perfect characterizations, both of the people and locales. The story takes place in Las Vegas and Chicago, both of which are described with such vivid detail the reader feels as if he was actually there. The descent of Chicago into rioting and disorder during a blackout manufactured by the Thousand as cover for their activities is particularly harrowing.
But there is no question that the star of The Thousand is Canada Gold, Nada to her friends. As a young teenager Nada was the recipient of an experimental neurostimulator implanted directly into her brain as a last ditch effort to control her severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Not only did it cure her, it left her with some powerful unintended side-effects which the adult Nada learned to use to her benefit, first as a gambler then as a private investigator. As described by an attorney whose client is on the wrong side of a Nada investigation:
Ms. Gold, who grew up in the same house as a cold-blooded killer, possesses a unique set of abilities. She reads lips in two languages. She can hear conversations from across a crowded room. Allegedly she has a photographic memory, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that her idle thoughts can bend spoons. She’s a freak of nature, and my firm has been burned by her so many times we seriously discussed conducting all our business in Navajo.
Unfortunately for Nada, because of the unique abilities it has the power to bestow there are members of one faction of the Thousand who want her implant – over her dead body if necessary – so they can give it to someone handpicked by them who will use its enhancing powers to help the Thousand achieve their goals. The resulting race between the two factions to get to Nada first, and her dawning comprehension of the true power of her implant, make for 350 pages of conspiracy-fueled, page-turning plot twists and turns.
Guilfoile has created something truly special in The Thousand. He’s managed to take heavy-hitting concepts like the relationship between math and music (indeed, math and the nature of the universe itself), as well as the moral implications of advanced scientific research and testing and wrap them up in a package as enticing and thrilling as any Hollywood blockbuster; but much more intelligent.
Quite simply, The Thousand is amazing! It’s what The Da Vinci Code wants to be when it grows up… and it still won’t be close.