The Formula by Don Viecelli (ebook review).

The Formula’ by Don Viecelli is described as a ‘suspense thriller that starts with a brutal murder on Ares, a large space station orbiting Mars in the year 2094’. It sounds ideal for me as I do like a good Science Fiction thriller. Two scientists, a father and daughter, have discovered a drug which reverses the aging process to make you physically younger. This drug which has yet to be formally announced is already in high demand with samples being sold for millions.

Unfortunately, Doctor Leif Johanson, the father, walks into the laboratory at precisely the wrong moment and is killed. His laboratory is in the process of being ransacked with the thief steeling vials of the drug and the computer memory cards containing the formula. In an attempt to hide the murder and the robbery, he sets off a bomb in the laboratory which is powerful enough to destroy evidence but not enough to endanger the space station.

This is where the hero of the book, Chief Homicide Detective Jack Helms, makes his appearance. Along with his young partner, Detective Tom Wilkerson, he’s assigned to the case and it doesn’t take them long to realise it’s a murder and the doctor’s daughter, Ingrid, is in danger. Someone will stop at nothing to get the formula for the new wonder drug.

It’s at this quite early stage in my reading that I began to have my doubts about this book. Not only do I know who the killer is, I know who’s his boss and which other high-level people are also in on the conspiracy. The only suspense is from trying to work out how Detective Jack Helms will solve the case and survive. Even he quickly works out what’s going on and who the bad guys are.

Let me say that I really liked the ideas behind the story. The idea of a drug which reverses the aging process on a person’s DNA is nicely described making it sufficiently plausible, so you don’t automatically disregard it. It’s also to be expected that rival drug firms would be engaging in a bit of industrial sabotage to get their hands on it. So far so good but I think DNA might be the author’s scientific strong point as his description of life on Mars and coping with the reduced gravity are way off the mark.

Due to the lack of a magnetic field and thin atmosphere on Mars, the surface is constantly exposed to quite high levels of radiation. Current opinion is that this would make living on the surface of Mars a rather dangerous pastime. The only viable option is to go underground but, in ‘The Formula’, people are living and working under domes while the wealthy have expensive villas on the surface overlooking the more scenic places.

The other thing is the gravity. On Mars it’s only about 1/3 of the gravity we feel here on good old Earth. While that’s about twice the gravity you would feel on the Moon, it’s going to have an effect on a person if they were to live in it for an extended period of time. The impact will be felt when they move to a higher gravity environment such as Earth. I was surprised that in ‘The Formula’ people only needed a two-day stopover in an Earth-type gravity to overcome years of living on Mars.

However, what really stopped me from enjoying the book was the writing style of the author. He mentions the character’s name over and over again, even when there’s only one character in the scene. It begins to read more like stage direction from a play rather than a novel. Here’s an example:

It was 2:00 a.m. in the morning. Wolfgang checked to see if anyone was in the hallway that led to Doctor Johanson’s condo. It was clear. There were no security cameras to worry about. It was too early in the morning for anyone to be roaming about, but Wolfgang was not taking any chances. He did not want to be seen.

Wolfgang walked up to the door and used an illegal decoding device to unlock it. The door slid open and he stepped inside.

The short sentences and the unnecessary descriptive text makes the reading a bit of a chore rather than a pleasurable experience. There’s no detective work for the reader and the two plot twist are so obvious it’s not a surprise when they finally happen. From doing a bit of research, I see the author has written several more books since he penned this one. I do hope his writing style has improved. I’d hate to think that ‘The Formula’ is his best work.

Andy Whitaker

April 2018

(pub: Don Viecelli, 2011. 279 page ebook. Price: £ 0.99 (UK). ASIN: B004U2VA80)

check out websites: and

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.