Fresh Meat: The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel

The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel is a modern techno-thriller where one man has only three days to prevent the outbreak of World War III (available February 24, 2015).

Jeremy Stillwater is smarter than you.

He’s smarter than you in the annoying way Alan Turing was, unwilling—or unable—to hide his belief that not only is he smarter than you, he’s smarter than pretty much anyone else on the planet.

Naturally, there are some smart people who resent his belief, especially because it’s true.

Jeremy wasn’t the first person to use “Big Data” as a predictive model for determining when and where and how events will occur, but he is the first person to create an algorithm that ties it all together, that makes it all make sense.

And naturally, there are some people who want him to share that algorithm.

It’s kind of like what happened with Facebook, if you’ve seen The Social Network.

Except that now Jeremy’s equations are telling him that he’s got three days before World War III breaks out and there are people more invested in him being wrong than in him being right.

And that’s a bit of a problem because though he’s been wrong before—there’s that insurgency he predicted would be over in a matter of months that has dragged on for years—this time he is right.

So very, very right.

And of course, he goes about trying to fix things in all the wrong way.

Granted access to someone who might be able to help him, he reverts to his default personality option, that of a wiseass. Asked to hand over his data, Jeremy feels like he’s being pushed, so he sarcastically asks if he should make the data rhyme like a Dr. Seuss book.

This does not win him any favors. And the problem is that just as the world is about to go up in flames, Jeremy’s own life is already fully engulfed.

He sits, unpockets his phones. In a fit of pique a week earlier, he’d purged his speed dial of those he felt had betrayed him. Emily, of course, though that number he knows by heart. Evan. Harold Ives, aka Harry War, the eccentric Berkeley war historian, Jeremy’s rare equal in being a pain in the ass, whose research, and more importantly, support, proved instrumental to Jeremy’s conflict algorithm. Also now estranged after Jeremy threatened to go public with Harry’s private life. But really,  hadn’t Harry asked for it by turning on Jeremy first?

As events unfold, hurtling toward the April first deadline for Armageddon, Jeremy finds himself alone, isolated, marginalized, and out of options, all because he didn’t want to see his predictive model sold to Verizon and McDonalds in return for ‘real, predictable, revenue streams.” Jeremy’s not a guy who second-guesses himself, but he begins to wonder if maybe he should rethink some of the decisions he’s made, especially those that have alienated the very people who might have been able to help him stave off disaster.

True, he purged their contact information but he can always retrieve them from his archived emails. And yet, even as he has this thought—even with the fate of the world at stake—Jeremy just can’t do it; can’t risk the chance that he’s wrong and give them the opportunity to ridicule him.

Even though he knows he isn’t wrong.

Not this time.

And every time he looks at his computer model, at the map that’s glowing red and the hears the three sharp beeps he programmed in as a warning sign of impending disaster, Jeremy knows he’s right.

But this time, just being right is not going to be enough.

The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel is a technothriller for the 21st century. In the past, writers like Tom Clancy pushed Cold War scenarios to their limits and used heroes whose motives and mores were formed by another era, another generation. Here the tech is bleeding edge and Jeremy is a millennial big-picture guy whose life is defined by the books on his desk, a volume on superstring theory and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating. He has the vision to decode what he calls, “monkey junk” when the data starts spewing, but simple things like human interaction baffle him beyond belief.

He feels suddenly serious and makes a decent attempt to cover up the wash of feelings, return to compartmentalizing, channel his irritation into something more strategic, which he can do with the best of them.

Eventually Jeremy is forced out of his comfort zone and into a place where he cannot just see the big picture but do something about it.

This book delivers on all a reader’s expectations for a technothriller—the title has DOOMSDAY built right in—but  it also offers something more: a protagonist so flawed that we truly wonder if he’s going to be able to set aside his intellectual arrogance and his wounded pride and his hurt feelings and actually save the world.

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Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. She was editor of Astonishing Adventures Magazine and the publisher of Dark Valentine Magazine. She edited the charity anthology Nightfalls. Her dark fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, A Twist of Noir, Luna Station Quarterly, and Eaten Alive, as well as anthologies, including Weird Noir, Pulp Ink 2, Alt-Dead, Alt-Zombie, and the upcoming Grimm Futures, which she also edited. Her most recent collection of short stories is Suicide Blonde. She lives in Los Angeles and sees way too many movies.

Read all posts by Katherine Tomlinson for Criminal Element.


  1. Patty wright

    The doomsday equasion sound amazing. Would love to read it. Patty wright

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