Singularity by Bill DeSmedt
This book is available in MP3 format as a free download at:
As someone who depends on audiobooks for reading, I was interested in a possible source of free audio SF at Podiobooks. On the other hand, I wasn't sure what to expect. Aside from a couple of public domain titles by known authors, Podiobook's writers were unknown to me. I was not sure whether unknown authors available for free might mean this was something like a "vanity press" with no requirements for talent.
At least for Singularity, this was not the case. I found the book to be well written and to keep my interest. From the audiobook angle, sound quality was good and the narration was good, but not the best.
The title of the book refers to a microscopic black hole that the book presents as the cause of the mysterious 1908 Tunguska event that flattened a forest in Siberia. This and related elements could justify classifying the book as "science fiction", but at least from my point of view it is marginally science fiction. The author describes the setting as "present day" and it takes place on Earth with essentially current tech (at least for the large majority of the story).
More to the point, the majority of the book is more of an espionage tale than exploration of science fiction themes. Although I could give you a list of aspects of the story that differ from that formula, there were elements that repeatedly reminded me of classic James Bond. One could argue that there were certain classic Bond stories that had tech or space flights that constituted "science fiction elements", but where is the line drawn between the genres? So ask yourself whether your reading interests include "present day SF" or "espionage / SF".
The story pivots around the idea that the US and Russian governments have agencies that keep an eye on scientists with knowledge relevant to weapons of mass destruction. In many countries of the world, including Russia, these kinds of scientists have fallen on hard times, making it possible to tempt them to sell their knowledge or services to bad guys with money. When it looks like one of these scientists may be about to do this, these agencies intervene.
One such Russian woman scientist who vanishes was friends with an American who studied in Russia 20 years ago. The Russian woman and the American man were also friends with a Russian man who is now prominent in a big Russia company suspected of mischief. The American espionage agency decides their best chance is to use the American man to reconnect with the Russian man. He and a woman American spy worm their way into what the Russian company is doing. (So rather than a solitary James Bond against the bad guys, we have a professional and an "amateur" spy working together.) Slowly, we discover the vast super-science scheme that is under way - certainly more hi-tech than in James Bond, but reminiscent of the super schemes of the super crooks Bond battled.
There is also a subplot about a scientist who goes to Tunguska to collect evidence in favor of a theory that the 1908 event was caused by a microscopic black hole. The bad guys sent a hit man to try to get rid of the scientist, in order to keep the bad guy’s project a secret. This subplot provides opportunities for discussions of primordial black holes and the like.
We also have some dealings with a super computer consultant / hacker which may give something for cyberpunk fans. By the end of the book, there's plenty of gee-whiz super science to prevent this from being just espionage.