Uncommon Scents is a science fiction novel by Bruce Berls and Jim Rowson.
It is the story of Lara, a marketing executive whose husband Spiro has developed a revolutionary new product for a giant tech company. Lara is drawn into a messy situation when she helps Spiro use his invention to commit a perfect crime while someone is obsessively probing for corporate secrets.
The company wants to run risky tests on an unsuspecting population.
The military wants to use Spiro’s technology to control people’s emotions and create super-soldiers.
Barry is a manager trying to stop the project. He doesn’t care about people. He just wants to stay out of jail and cash in his stock options.
Lara winds up caught between security guards trying to find out who is posting company secrets online and a flash mob of conspiracy theorists worried about aliens.
Oh, and the CDC locks down San Rafael as the whole city loses its sense of smell in what appears to be a pandemic outbreak.
You can read an excerpt below. It is thrilling and will make you wave your hand at your face to cool down. Please do not proceed if you believe you might pass out from excitement or are susceptible to the vapours.
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Lara clutched the stolen envelope firmly to make sure it didn’t slip out of her invisible fingers.
She closed the door behind her and sagged against the building, heart pounding. She was furious with Spiro for getting her involved in a harebrained adventure. She was thrilled at the most exciting thing she had ever done. She was proud of herself and ashamed of herself and scared of going to jail. She wanted to cry and laughed instead.
She looked down at the tufts of weed poking through cracks in the asphalt where her feet ought to be. Being invisible was the best part of the caper but she hoped Spiro’s programming would remove the effect soon. It was going to be hard to move on a city street if no one could see her coming.
She peered around the trash bins and looked down the alley. No one was in sight. Spiro had done what he called a “reconnaissance mission” a few days earlier, meaning he walked around to the back of the store to make sure there were no cameras. Spiro’s invisibility routine was clever but it had no effect on security cameras. Lara and Spiro had solemnly agreed that high resolution video showing her strolling away with the stolen goods would undercut the whole “perfect crime” vibe. Also possibly land both of them in jail.
Lara fumbled to tuck the envelope in her backpack purse, then pulled off the latex gloves by feel and dropped them on the ground beside her, where they instantly appeared out of nowhere as they left the screen that was keeping her out of sight. They looked sad, like deflated cow udder balloons, and perhaps they were filled with fingernail DNA, if that was a thing, so she picked them back up and stuffed them into the purse.
Out of habit she felt around for her hand lotion and squeezed a dollop out into her palm by feel. Rubbing her hands together helped calm her nerves.
She could hear sirens in the distance coming closer. Time to move.
Something wasn’t right. She shook her head, trying to work out why she had a nagging feeling that something was missing as she walked down the alley past the overflowing trash bin behind the diaper delivery service.
It finally came to her: she couldn’t smell her lotion, the distinctive odor of blown out candle that was her long time favorite. She raised her hands and sniffed and smelled nothing.
Strange, she thought. Maybe the propane smell a few minutes before had stunned her nose in some way.
She straightened up, looked out on the main street to be sure no one would run into her by accident, and then walked down the sidewalk briskly. She didn’t want to be late for her next appointment.