Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston's taut thriller Invasive Procedures takes readers a few years into the future, and shows the promise and danger of new genetic medicine techniques.
George Galen is a brilliant scientist, a pioneer in gene therapy. But Galen is dangerously insane – he has created a method to alter human DNA, not just to heal diseases, but to "improve" people – make them stronger, make them able to heal more quickly, and make them compliant to his will.
Frank Hartman is also a brilliant virologist, working for the government's ultra-secret bio-hazard agency. He has discovered how to neutralize Galen's DNA-changing virus, making him the one man who stands in the way of Galen's plan to "improve" the entire human race.
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About the Author
Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead. Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead both won Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the only author to win these two top prizes in consecutive years. There are seven other novels to date in The Ender Universe series. Card has also written fantasy: The Tales of Alvin Maker is a series of fantasy novels set in frontier America; The Lost Gate, is a contemporary magical fantasy. Card has written many other stand-alone sf and fantasy novels, as well as movie tie-ins and games, and publishes an internet-based science fiction and fantasy magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, Card directs plays and teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and youngest daughter, Zina Margaret.
Aaron Johnston is a successful Hollywood screenwriter.
Invasive Procedures is loosely based on an old short story of Card's, "Malpractice".
Orson Scott Card is best known for his science fiction novel Ender's Game and its many sequels that expand the Ender Universe into the far future and the near past. Those books are organized into the Ender Quintet, the five books that chronicle the life of Ender Wiggin; the Shadow Series, that follows on the novel Ender's Shadow and are set on Earth; and the Formic Wars series, written with co-author Aaron Johnston, that tells of the terrible first contact between humans and the alien "Buggers." Card has been a working writer since the 1970s. Beginning with dozens of plays and musical comedies produced in the 1960s and 70s, Card's first published fiction appeared in 1977--the short story "Gert Fram" in the July issue of The Ensign, and the novelette version of "Ender's Game" in the August issue of Analog. The novel-length version of Ender's Game, published in 1984 and continuously in print since then, became the basis of the 2013 film, starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin. Card was born in Washington state, and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he runs occasional writers' workshops and directs plays. He frequently teaches writing and literature courses at Southern Virginia University.
He is the author many sf and fantasy novels, including the American frontier fantasy series "The Tales of Alvin Maker" (beginning with Seventh Son). There are also stand-alone science fiction and fantasy novels like Pastwatch and Hart's Hope. He has collaborated with his daughter Emily Card on a manga series, Laddertop. He has also written contemporary thrillers like Empire and historical novels like the monumental Saints and the religious novels Sarah and Rachel and Leah. Card's recent work includes the Mithermages books (Lost Gate, Gate Thief), contemporary magical fantasy for readers both young and old. Card lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card. He and Kristine are the parents of five children and several grandchildren.
AARON JOHNSTON is the coauthor of The New York Times bestselling novels Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, and other Ender's Game prequel novels. He was also the co-creator and showrunner for the sci-fi series Extinct, as well as an associate producer on the movie Ender’s Game. He and his wife are the parents of four children.
Hometown:Greensboro, North Carolina
Date of Birth:August 24, 1951
Place of Birth:Richland, Washington
Education:B.A. in theater, Brigham Young University, 1975; M.A. in English, University of Utah, 1981
Read an Excerpt
Dolores never met a Healer she didn't like until the night they took her away. It happened at the playground on Santa Monica Beach at about two o'clock in the morning. Dolores slept in the metal tube that connected the jungle gym to the swirly slide. For a homeless woman of forty, it wasn't that bad of an arrangement. She had privacy here, and the garbage cans at the playground usually had enough juice boxes or snack packets to tide her over until morning.
A passerby would, no doubt, think Dolores older than her forty years. Time on the street had a way of aging a person in much the same way war did. Her greasy brown hair hung in knotted clumps beneath a black knitted cap. Her eyes were gray, distant, and tired. Years of wind and sun had leathered her face and left dark circles under her eyes. Beneath her heavily soiled trench coat were several layers of other clothing: T-shirts and sweatshirts and all kinds of shirts — far more than normal people would wear but just enough for someone who slept out in the cold.
Tonight the cold was especially cold, the kind that snaked its way into Dolores's metal tube and then into the holes and folds of her clothing. It was a cold that had kept her up all night. And by the time the uninvited drunk man arrived, Dolores was in a particularly sour mood.
He stumbled into the playground, smelling like a vat of cheap liquor. From where she lay, Dolores couldn't see him, but he was making plenty of noise and sounded like trouble.
Go away, she wanted to scream. Take your booze smell and the vomit smell that's bound to be right behind it and go away.
Instead he collapsed onto the slide, and the metal rang with the sound of his impact.
Dolores inchwormed her way to the end of the tube and looked down. There he was, sprawled on his back in the sand, his arms spread wide, his mouth slightly agape. He must have slid right off the slide after falling onto it.
Dolores shook her head.
Whatever you been drinking, mister, you must have burned a lot of brain cells, because no poorly buttoned flannel shirt and holey pair of blue jeans are going to protect you from this wind. You need layers, peabrain. Layers.
She wriggled back inside the tube. Not dressing for the weather was about the stupidest, most inexcusable reason for dying Dolores could think of.
She was debating whether to move elsewhere for the night just in case drunk man here woke up and caused trouble, when she heard voices.
"Here's one, sir."
It was a man's voice, strong, probably a cop. Good. Get that stinking heap away from my slide before he throws up.
"He's drunk, sir."
Of course he's drunk. You got a clothespin on your nose?
"He'll do," another man said. An older man, by the sound. And quieter. Like somebody used to being obeyed without having to push. The kind of person who shouldn't be in an empty playground on the beach after dark, in the winter.
She knew the smart thing to do. Lie low, don't make a sound. They obviously hadn't noticed her. And that was always a good thing.
"Help him to the van," the older man said.
The van? Cops don't take drunks "to the van." They either book them or roll them.
So who were these guys? She had to get a peek. If she moved really slowly, she could keep silent. Then again, if she moved too slowly, they'd be gone before she got to the end of the tube where she could see. So she needed just the right balance of speed and stealth.
Got it wrong. They must have heard her, because someone started climbing the ladder.
Dolores's grip tightened around her tennis racket. She'd never be able to swing it, of course. There wasn't room. But she could at least raise it warningly if she had to.
A face appeared. "Hello there."
It was the old man. White hair. Trim white beard. And a smile so wide, you'd think he had just walked into his own surprise birthday party.
Dolores kept silent. If she ignored him, he might think her crazy and leave. Always better not to take chances with a stranger than to open one's mouth and let them hear the fear in your voice.
"A little cold to be sleeping outside, don't you think?" the old man said, lifting a hood over his head as the wind picked up.
It was the hood that gave him away. He was a Healer. Only Healers wore capes with hoods like that. It was their calling card. Dolores thought the capes and hoods rather silly-looking but understood that they were more functional than fashionable. The cape was like a flag, a neon sign, drawing anyone who needed a Healer directly to one. It said, Hey, I'm a Healer. Come to me if I can help you, and I gladly will.
They were the Good Samaritans of the street. Healers made it their mission to give out free food and to treat people who were sick or injured — getting in trouble sometimes because they had no medical licenses, but not in really bad trouble because nobody could ever prove that they were actually practicing medicine and because they only helped the homeless anyway, people who couldn't help themselves or get help anywhere else.
The only thing odd about this Healer, however, was his age. Dolores had never seen an old Healer before. The ones she had seen, strolling along the Third Street Promenade helping the homeless there, were all young, healthy, bodybuilder types. Big guys. Always guys. And always big. Muscle big. Don't-mess-with-me-because-I-can-break-your-face big.
But this Healer was anything but a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, though he didn't look particularly weak.
"You'll freeze to death if you stay out here," he said, still smiling.
Dolores kept her expression blank but was inwardly happy to see him. Free food was free food.
The only catch was that Healers could talk your ear off if you let them. Wellness of the body and soul and all that, helping the species reach its potential. Whatever. Dolores didn't care what religion they were preaching. She just listened and pretended to care, until they gave her the food. Then she'd politely thank them and be on her way.
"I'm George Galen," he said. As if that was supposed to mean something to her.
Maybe he was waiting for her to tell him her name, but she wasn't about to, so she got to the point instead. "You got any food?" she said.
"We do," he said. "Sandwiches in the van."
"I ain't in the van," she said. "Fat lot of good your sandwiches do me."
His smile widened. "Turkey or ham?"
"Turkey," she said.
Galen looked behind him and called down the ladder. "She wants a turkey sandwich, Lichen."
Dolores craned her neck a few inches, just enough to see who it was he was speaking to.
A young Healer — the normal kind of Healer, with big bulging muscles and wearing one of those capes over his shoulders — nodded and hurried away. Another Healer had an arm around the drunk man and was helping him hobble away from the playground.
Galen looked back at her, gesturing to the Healer who had run off to fetch the sandwich. "Lichen is one of my young associates."
"Lichen? That's his name? What, he from Europe or something?"
Galen laughed. "No, no, I gave him that name. He is like lichen, able to grow strong even when the wind blows hard."
Dolores rolled her eyes, not caring if the old man noticed. Crazy religion mumbo jumbo.
Galen didn't look fazed.
They waited there in silence a moment until Lichen came jogging back with a sandwich in a small plastic bag. He handed it to Galen, who handed it to Dolores.
She unwrapped it and began to eat. It was good. The Healers always had good stuff. Turkey, yes, but lots of lettuce and tomato, too, and sprouts, and mayo — a real sandwich, the kind somebody might pay for, not the slapped-together crap that homeless people usually got. "Thank you," she said. She might be gutter trash to most people, but she still had manners.
That didn't mean she was a pushover, though. "I'd rather skip the sermon if you don't mind," she said.
Galen tilted his head back and laughed again. As he did, Dolores saw a glimpse of the gold ribbon stitched on the inside band of his cape collar. All Healers had some color there, she had noticed, usually red or blue.
It surprised her to see a Healer laughing. All the ones she had ever talked to were stiff as boards and always spoke in reverent tones, like the street was a chapel getting ready for mass.
"I'm not here to give any sermons, ma'am."
She nodded. "Good to hear."
"You've heard our message before, I take it?"
She took another bite. "I could give it myself. Keep the body and soul pure. Yadda yadda yadda."
He laughed again. He was a jolly one, there was no questioning that. She even smiled back this time. The street had given her edge, but the charm of this George Galen was melting that away like warm sunshine. She even considered apologizing for not wanting the sermon.
He beat her to the punch.
"You have my apologies," he said, "if my Healers preach a little overzealously. I hope they've treated you well otherwise."
"Oh, they're always nice. I had me a bad sore on my foot a few weeks back, and one of them gave me some ointment and a nice bandage."
"And it helped, did it?"
"Healed up nice and quick." She wadded up the empty sandwich bag. "That was good."
"I have plenty more where that came from."
The edge came back instantly. Dolores didn't like the sound of that last statement. It sounded like those strangers who offered candy to children. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that we're offering you a hot meal and a warm bed to sleep in tonight."
"Whose bed?" she said immediately. "I'm not that kind of woman, if that's what you're —"
He laughed heartily, throwing his head back so far that his hood slid off and his bushy mane of white hair was exposed again. "No no no," he said. "Nothing like that. You'll get your own bed. Trust me."
A warm bed. A soft one. And more food. "Free of charge?" she asked.
"Free of charge."
She stared at him a long moment, waiting for the punch line or catch. When one didn't come —
"All right," she said. "Mind getting off that ladder so I can snake out?"
Galen obligingly descended. Dolores wriggled out and carefully climbed down after him.
They drove north along the Pacific Coast Highway. That was the first bad sign. Dolores had assumed they'd be heading back into LA, toward downtown, where a lot of the nonprofits had their offices, not north toward Malibu.
She was sitting between Hal and some other guy. Hal, she had learned, was the drunk man who had collapsed at the playground. Galen had asked him his name rather nicely when they had pulled over to let him throw up.
If Dolores thought he smelled bad before, it was nothing compared to the odors he was giving off now. No hot meal is worth this, she thought.
At least the homeless kid on her left wasn't drunk. He seemed pretty normal, in fact. Fifteen or sixteen at the most, with black stringy hair tied back in a ponytail and thrashed black combat boots. Most punks his age would be running at the mouth and complaining about something. But not this kid. He just stared out the window and kept to himself.
"I'm Dolores," she said. The idea of free food and a warm bed had suddenly put her in a good mood.
The kid in the ponytail looked at her. "Nick."
Dolores smiled. "Nick. Now that's a name. Can't say I know many Nicks. Course there's Jolly Saint Nick. You know him. Man, I love me some Christmas. Presents, stockings, those fancy decorations in all the store windows. Course some people have forgotten why we have it. They forget it's the Lord's birthday. It's a shame, don't you think?"
Nick returned his gaze to the window and said nothing.
So much for polite conversation, thought Dolores.
Behind her, sitting alone in the very back seat was another boy, Nick's friend, also homeless by the looks of him, with the face of a junkie if Dolores had ever seen one. Kid probably wasn't a day over fourteen, although the drugs made him look much older. He had shaggy black hair, wore a tattered trench coat, and sported a tattoo of a snake, which began somewhere under his collar and extended up the side of his neck.
"Your friend Nick don't talk much," said Dolores, turning in her seat to face him.
"Not much to say, I guess," said the boy.
"What about you? What's your name?"
"Why? You taking a census?"
Dolores made a face. "You're the funny one, huh? The Teller?"
"Teller. You know? Penn and Teller. Magicians. One of 'em talks and the other one doesn't. Maybe it's Penn who talks. I can't remember which. Marx Brothers had the same gag. Harpo never said a thing, just played the harp and honked this little horn."
"I'm Jonathan," the boy said.
"Like Saint John. From the Bible."
"No, just Jonathan."
"Fair enough. You and your friend Nick come along for the free food too, I take it?"
Jonathan looked out the window. "Yeah. We could use some free food."
You and me both, thought Dolores. You and me both.
Up in the passenger seat, Galen sat whistling and tapping his fingers on the armrest. The driver was one of the big Healers, possibly the biggest Dolores had ever seen, nearly seven feet tall and thick as a horse. Unlike Galen, he seemed on edge, both hands on the steering wheel, leaning forward slightly as if the van wasn't going fast enough for him. The Healer named Lichen sat behind Galen near the sliding door. He wasn't nearly as large as the driver, but he was big enough to make Dolores wonder how many hours a day he spent in a gym.
"Where's this place we're headed?" Jonathan asked.
Galen turned around in the passenger seat and smiled. "Close, Jonathan. We should be there shortly."
"Seems awful far," said Nick.
Galen merely smiled again. "I hope everyone likes pot roast," he said. "It's been simmering for hours now. And twice-baked potatoes."
Well that sounded right tasty to Dolores. She couldn't remember the last time she had pot roast. Nowadays it was just whatever looked edible, put it in your mouth and chew. Don't ask what it is. Don't ask where it came from. It's got nutrients you need. So eat it.
Yes, sir. I could go for some juicy pot roast about now.
Hal was of another opinion. "Pull over," he said. "Gotta puke."
The van immediately pulled over and the door slid open. Hal was out in flash, dry heaving over some sagebrush.
Dolores wasn't sure which kind of vomiting sounded worse, wet or dry.
"Shouldn't drink so much," said Galen.
"You don't say," said Hal.
Dolores shook her head. This was downright unappetizing.
"You'll feel better once we get some coffee in you," Galen said.
Hal nodded. "Just give me a second." He was still on his knees on the asphalt as he bent over and retched again. If it weren't for the soundtrack, you'd think the guy was praying.
It was pathetic, really. Dolores couldn't help but feel sorry for the man.
Hal stayed there for the longest time, not moving.
The other two Healers didn't like this one bit. The driver kept looking at his watch and then up the road, like he was expecting someone or had an appointment to keep. Lichen stood outside with Hal, standing over him like a fidgety prison guard.
"It's late, sir," the driver said.
Galen put a finger to his lips. "Patience, Stone." He rolled down the passenger window. "Are you all right, Hal?"
"Fine," Hal said. Then he slowly got to his feet. Galen got out of the van and helped him back inside. It was kind, the way the old man treated him — paying no attention to the smell and not minding having to touch his filthy clothes. Like the Lord, Dolores thought: reaching out and healing the blind and the lepers.
They hadn't driven two miles when they pulled over yet again. This time for a hitchhiker.
Are we driving or not? Dolores wanted to scream. All this talk of pot roast has worked up a hunger. Let's get a move on.
Galen rolled down his window. "Need a ride?"
"More than you know," the hitchhiker said, jogging up to the passenger window. "Thank you for stopping."
"The pleasure is ours," Galen said. "What's your name, son?"
Dolores thought him a scruffy-looking fellow. Byron carried no bags, but he looked like a drifter. Three-day beard. Dirty blue jeans. A baseball cap with the Mack truck logo on the front. A denim jacket.
Galen, however, didn't seem to mind the man's appearance. He looked Byron up and down, as if measuring him for a suit, and said, "Get in. We'll give you a lift."
The door slid open, and Byron climbed in, taking a seat behind Dolores, next to Jonathan. As soon as Lichen had the door closed, Stone had the van in gear and on the road again.
Galen turned around in the seat. "I'm George Galen," he said, then, pointing to the driver and the Healer behind him, "These are my companions, Stone and Lichen. My other guests are Hal, Dolores, Nick, and Jonathan there beside you."
Byron gave a vague wave and smiled at everyone, not looking particularly comfortable with the crowd or the smell. "Nice to meet you," he said. Then he addressed Galen. "My car broke down, and I couldn't find a phone. Nothing's open at this hour."
"Your car?" Galen asked, as if he was surprised the man owned one.
"You probably passed it a mile or so back." he said. "I would've used my cell phone, but it ran out of juice. How's that for luck?"
Excerpted from "Invasive Procedures"
Copyright © 2007 Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
11. Level 4,
Tor Books by Orson Scott Card,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow. Quite simply put, wow. This is one of those rare novels where, upon finishing it, the reader is forced to sit and collect their breath, and eagerly devours the last paragraph over and over, willing the book never to end. George Galen is a brilliant genetic engineer who has fallen from the grace of his comrades, do to his radical, and somewhat unstable, viewpoints. Deranged, Galen forms a cult of 'Healers' who wander the streets, collecting transients and the infirm, assisting and treating them when possible. (In fact, I envisioned the Healers as a sort of twisted version of Jedi Knights.) While seemingly harmless and kind, these Healers are simply a portion of a grand design, conceived by Galen, to achieve immortality, and structure the world to his desires. The writing is superb, and the suspense is astounding. Galen, himself, is an extraordinarily complex character, outwardly calm, with a cheerful, almost happy-go-lucky, old-fashioned good nature about him, which masks the seering contempt within him. Orson Scott Card has once again proven himself worthy the genre of science-fiction, a true successor to such greats as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Now, my only question is, when is he going to be named a Grand Master of Science Fiction??? May the Force be with you all!
This book is amazing. Once you start reading you will not be able to put it down until you are done. This story is about the crazy and scary antics of George Galen, a famous geneticist. In the past he was shunned by the medical community for his radical views. Now Galen has his own followers called the Healers. Galen has genetically modified them and himself to be bigger, faster, and stronger, and heal faster. Also, the Healers submit completely to Galen's will. Galen has found a way to cure many gene related diseases using his new virus called V16. However it is only a cure for the person for whom it is created for. If anyone else comes into contact with this virus they will die a horrible death. This is the reason why the BHA or the BioHazard Agency of the United States government recruits a man called Frank Hartman. Hartman has just completed a counter virus for V16. This makes him the number one enemy against Galen and his cult of Healers. Another pawn in George Galen's master plan is Monica Owens, a heart surgeon. She and her son are kidnapped by Galen. Why does he want with her? And what is his master plan? Well you have to read to find out. INVASIVE PROCEDURES will add another amazing page turner to Card's long list of books. INVASIVE PROCEDURES has many more things then what I have written above, but I don¿t want to ruin the book for anyone. Once again this book is amazing and once you start you can not stop.-MW
I suppose it's a fun read of its genre--a little more science fiction than pure medical drama. The protagonist is a military medical doctor (of course), working on genetic research when he is called up to another agency to work on a countervirus for a particularly virulent virus that has been mysteriously (and gruesomely) killing people. And it isn't just a virus, it's really a biological weapon that changes individuals' DNA.Based on a screenplay by Aaron Johnston which was, in turn, based on a short story by Orson Scott Card, I would be interested to read the original short story. The characterization and details really are not like Card at all.
Very much an Aaron Johnston book, based off an Orson Scott Card idea.With a few good moments, this is generally a bad book. The characters lack Card's humanity and empathy, the plot is obvious and yet hard to swallow. Not recommended.
Substance: A techno-thriller about an ego-maniac mad scientist George Galen out to conquer the world. Good protagonist (in both senses) and engaging story, but BIG plot holes and irritating minor ones (despite being worked out over several years with both authors and affiliated readers; what does it take to get things right?)Some useful debates on the meaning and efficacy and morality of public and private sacrifice, and personal responsibility. Also the difference between real and fake "prophets" is the use of coercion on "believers" (p. 333).Style: Idea by Card, writing by Johnston admitted and obvious. Indistinguishable for any other well-done work in the genre. Clearly a movie screenplay, in timing and plot.NOTES: (spoiler alert)Big Holes: Galen is only insane when the author wants him to be. There is no reason for him to do all his transplants at one time rather than seeing first if one works correctl (Jonathan doesn't really qualify, since he was part of the group)y; there is no reason for him to select homeless derelicts with defective minds and bodies, even if he does think his own mind with overwrite theirs (and none at all for him to pick a woman); if he was kicked out of the scientific and university community, where did he get all the money for his labs and followers upkeep? A major, complex plan was determined and rehearsed in only a few hours (or less) in the middle of a crisis p. 328).Minor point: There were three kidney transplants, with no hint that the first came from someone other than Galen. Agents careen between super-competent and in-competent.Sometimes Frank remembers he's carrying a deadly virus and cares (p. 287, laughably), sometimes he remembers and doesn't do anything p. 226); sometimes he doesn't seem to remember.p. 108: Despite obvious reasons to do so, the hero and sidekick didn't call for back-up, although the next agent in did so on even less evidence.p. 208: The requisite 24-hour deadline is cited, but then ignored.p. 234: why would tranquilizer darts work at all on men who can heal instantly?p. 241: "Who sacrifices their own children?" -- Abraham and Elohim come to mind.p. 242: Why is there never enough time to explain things beforehand ("just do as I say") but always enough time after things get screwed up (and it didn't take as long as the argument over not telling the others in the first place) - at least Johnston points this out in the book after doing it anyway.p. 252: no explanation as to why Frank gets stronger and Nick gets sick.p. 258: no way Dr Owens' explanation of genetic memory would "lose" someone established as a brilliant virologist, and also a medical doctor.p. 273: Where did Hal suddenly get the "sacred" book?p. 336: Where does a neurosurgeon get pick-locks and learn to use them?
I'm a huge Orson Scott Card fan, but this was a book that didn't need to be written. The original short story was great, but the novel was just padding. It seemed more like a formula FBI drama than a work of science fiction.
I usually love Orson Scott Card for his unexpected plot twists, but I found Invasive Procedures to be a lackluster and formulaic medical thriller. After reading the afterword, I realize that this is the result of a short story turned into a screenplay turned into a novel, and maybe that's the problem - he's selling out and trying to be more commercial. Let's hope not.
While Card is the big name on the cover, this isn't really an OSC book as near as I can tell. They style is very different, as is the characterization. While a good medical thriller, it lacks some of the empathy that makes Card's books as good as they are.This book reads more along the lines of Michael Crichton than OSC. Setting aside expectations for a Card story line and characters, the book is still quite good. The plot moves quickly, and the action is generally believable. For a first novel, it represents a great start.
In his afterword to this collaborative effort, Orson Scott Card almost gushes in his unbridled admiration for his co-author, ending with a mock plea that Johnston wait five years before he outsells Card's books. I'm here to say that I don't think Card has much to fear.The story idea for this novel may originally have been Card's, and I have no reason to doubt his repeated insistence that the book was a "true collaboration" -- though there's a definite whiff of "I think the lady [or gentleman, in this case] doth protest too much" -- but the writing is nowhere near the quality of even Card's worst effort.The book would make a good beach read -- fast-paced, undemanding, and very predictable. The characters are more caricatures than real people, and the plot seems culled from any number of C grade efforts from the SciFi channel.A brilliant but crazed scientist has discovered how to tinker with the body's genetic blueprint (now that's a new and startling idea -- NOT). He forms a sort of New Age religious cult, with himself (brace yourself for a shock, here) as the Prophet. He's gathered a fanatical group of die-hard followers with superhuman powers around him, and although he and his devotees have done some good in the world by healing some folks with incurable genetic illnesses, his nefarious plan is to alter the human genome permanently. I told you the plot was derivative, didn't I?Add to this standard mix the usual beautiful and brainy lady in distress, her small son, and a stalwart and good-looking male research scientist, stir well, and voila! You have your all too standard medical thriller.Preston and Child did it better in Mount Dragon, while Dean Koontz created more believable and sympathetic characters in several of his similarly themed books. Card's name on the title, prominently blazoned above his collaborator's, drew me to check the book out of my local library; but I'm glad I didn't waste my hard-earned cash on this one.Worth reading if you have an afternoon to kill, but not worth buying.
Card has shown he's able to pull off a Tom Clancy considerable facility, with Empire. He's now shown us he CANNOT do a Robin Cook. This one was by turns stupid, silly, ridiculous, while at the same time failing to be entertaining. I'm in no position to comment on the science, but even that didn't ring true to me. Had this been written by somebody other than Card I probably would've pulled the plug. I kept expecting it to get better and it never did. Mr. Card, I expect better from you.
It was ok. Wouldn't recommend it though.
You can't beat Card for engaging writing and this book based on an earlier story he wrote and reciently made into a book is no different. I don't usually like smaller books but this one still worked for me.
I bought this as a gift for someone who reads this author.