Seventy-year old avant-garde composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police outside. His DIY microbiology lab - the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to extract music from rich patterns beyond the ear's ability to hear - has come to the attention of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid on his house, Els flees and turns fugitive, waiting for the evidence to clear him and for the alarm surrounding his activities to blow over. But alarm turns to national hysteria, as the government promises a panicked nation that the 'Bioterrorist Bach' will be found and brought to trial. As Els feels the noose around him tighten, he embarks on a cross-country trip to visit, one last time, the people in his past who have most shaped his failed musical journey. And through the help of these people - his ex-wife, his daughter, and his longtime artistic collaborator - Els comes up with a plan to turn this disastrous collision with national security into one last, resonant, calamitous artwork that might reach an audience beyond his wildest dreams.
Richard Powers has been a recipient of a Lannan Literary Award and a MacArthur Fellowship, as well as a winner of the US National Book Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of eight novels, including The Time of our Singing, Plowing the Dark, and Gain. He lives in Los Angeles.