Book Review: The Healers by Thomas Heric

Hey there…

What will health care look like in a year? Five years? Ten years? There’s no debate that advances in science and technology will provide answers to many of mankind’s current medical mysteries. But how will men and women with sometimes questionable ethics and morals use those new tools? Will the monetary rewards for those future doctors outweigh the good reasons for helping their family, friends, and complete strangers through the challenges of addressing the seemingly endless medical issues they will face?

Thomas Heric presents a unique vision of the future that tries to answer these questions in the form of a novel that bridges multiple genres of fiction. There are science fiction, adventure, and thriller threads mixed with one of the darkest hours in our history in the form of the Nazi agenda for a perfect race. At times I was reminded of Michael Crichton‘s Jurassic Park, a bit of Ira Levin’s Boys from Brazil, and Robert Ludlum’s novels involving Nazi plots into the cold war such as The Holcroft Covenant.

The story of The Healers begins in 2021 with Wesley Anderson’s graduation from medical school. Wesley is a remarkable young man with a brilliant future in medicine and medical research. At his graduation party, he is approached by the Aesculapian Healers – a group of technologically and scientifically advanced doctors offering to cure all your ills but at an unbelievably high price. Torn between joining his father’s medical practice and learning about the cutting edge of medicine, Wesley chooses to join them when he learns of his father’s own health issues.

We tag along with Wesley as he learns more about the Aesculapian’s plans for the future and their dark past. If a group of doctors has the power to heal those with incurable diseases, why couldn’t they simply share that knowledge with the world? Wesley must wrestle with his conscience as he finds himself drawn into a web of secrets and lies. Can he save his family? His friends? The world?

Author Thomas Heric has been a practicing physician for more than 40 years and it’s obvious from the first few pages of the novel that he has a gift for not only using medical jargon correctly but translating it in such a way that the reader knows enough to not get bogged down by it. He’s written for such television series as Medical Story, The Nurses, Chicago Hope, and Picket Fences. At times I felt the jargon took over the pages of this novel, but for the most part it was handled well.

What threw me a bit was the feeling that the story was somewhat, but not completely, predictable. As a journey of self-discovery, Wesley is faced by numerous challenges along the way, testing him physically, mentally, and emotionally as any good hero should be tested. As the tale progressed, I could almost hear Joseph Campbell narrating some of the storytelling methods used in early myths in Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Heric uses many common constructs of the hero’s journey such as the hero gathering like-minded individuals around him to help him in his journey, facing his challenges in much the same way as Hercules from Greek myth, and so on.

And I felt that in places, Heric may have been sharing his own view of what might happen as the Obama Administration continues to work on health care reform in what many are calling a “socialist agenda.” Though I think the term “socialist” doesn’t apply in this case, I have my own concerns about how the medical community will be forced to change to meet government standards of care. It was interesting to read Heric’s interpretation of what might come of these changes in the future.

That said, once I got into the rhythm of the tale, I enjoyed Wesley’s journey as did his best to help his family and friends both old and new to survive such a turbulent time. The science fiction and Nazi elements kept me entertained and I will be curious to see where he takes the series in the future. The Healers is the first book of his series The Aesculapians and left me wanting to learn more about how things will resolve themselves after this story’s climactic ending.

If you like your science fiction to be more “near future” than “far future,” The Healers by Thomas Heric might be right up your alley. The action is fast and provides a great ride. Definitely one of the most interesting medical “what ifs” I’ve read since Michael Crichton passed away in 2008.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

Hi all…

Last year, I had the pleasure of reading Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, which took the concept of a zombie plague and put it in the hands of a group of terrorists. Joe Ledger was the hero recruited to take on the shambling, infected dead and find a way to stop them as part of the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) – a super-secret group of highly-trained and resourceful individuals tasked to take out the threats the normal police or military forces of the United States can’t handle.

Now Maberry has managed to take evil to a whole new level with The Dragon Factory. Not only does the terror fit in a timebox of one week, it merges cutting-edge genetics and biological science with the eugenics goal of the Nazis of World War II as they strived to create a “master race”.

Consider what would happen if the cloning experiments described in Ira Levin‘s The Boys from Brazil had the technological tools and expertise of today. Now multiply that by a factor of 1000. As the novel progresses, the depths of depravity and layers of pure evil reveal themselves to be imaginative, inspiring, and horrific all at the same time.

On one side you have the beautiful Jakoby Twins – brilliant, elusive, perfect albino twins engaged in creating genetic mash-ups of existing creatures to form monsters and mercenaries capable of wanton destruction at the drop of a hat. On the other side, you have their father – Cyrus Jakoby – striving to not only create the Nazi Master Race, but rid the world of impurities as Adolph Hitler began to do during his reign of terror.

Between those two factions we find a race against a doomsday clock (called the “Extinction Clock”) nobody knows about until it’s almost too late and Joe Ledger and his friends fight against the odds to save the world from the depths of depravity and madness. Ledger fights the evil on his own terms – but is the sacrifice too high this time?

Honestly, I love it when novels manage to work in not only artifacts of the present, but the echoes of history that are far too often forgotten. Maberry does both in spades while putting you on a heck of a rollercoaster ride. And don’t worry – there’s lots of gunfire, knife fights, and grenades to go around.

Though there is some serious science embedded in the pages of The Dragon Factory, I never found myself bogged down anywhere. His explanations were simple enough to keep the plot moving and the action hardly ever let up. Even the occasional love scene rarely slowed the novel’s pace. Merging the dangers of genetic and biological manipulation with the unfathomable evil of the plans for the Nazi Master Race was a brilliant yet terrifying reminder that humankind is capable of truly beautiful and horrible things.

Maberry has written multiple novels, magazine articles, and plays while also teaching writing. I don’t know where he finds all the time. His novels include Ghost Road Blues, which won the Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2006, Dead Man’s Song, Bad Moon Rising, and Patient Zero, which was recently optioned for television. And when he’s not writing novels, he writes for several Marvel comics, including The Black Panther and other heroes including Wolverine, Spider-Man, The Punisher, and others.

If you like fast, intelligent action thrillers, I can highly recommend Jonathan Maberry’s The Dragon Factory to be on your list of books to read. And if you haven’t read Patient Zero, I’d encourage you to pick that up as well. They’re both fast reads with some serious crunch. I can hardly wait to see what’s next for Joe Ledger – and I’d love to see Patient Zero done well on television!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up The Dragon Factory and other Jonathan Maberry books at Amazon:

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Book Review: The Atlantis Revelation by Thomas Greanias

Unfamiliar with Thomas Greanias‘ work, I decided to dive into his latest book – The Atlantis Revelation. The combination of Atlantis and Nazi schemes was enough to tickle my fancy, exploring the fantastic world of archaeologist Conrad Yeats. The book turned out to be a bit like National Treasure with a bit of The Da Vinci Code and James Bond thrown in for good measure.

The book opens with Yeats diving in the wreckage of the legendary Nazi submarine, Nausicaa, deep in the Mediterranean ocean. Nausicaa was once captained by SS General Ludwig von Berg, also known as the Baron of the Black Order, the leader of Hitler’s Ahnenerbe – a group dedicated to proving that the Aryans were the descendants of Atlantis. The Baron had found some kind of Atlantean artifact and it had gone down when the submarine was sunk by the British Royal Navy in 1943.

Yeats soon discovered that it was the Flammenschwert or “Sword of Fire” – some kind of torpedo or bomb based on Atlantean technology? He had little time to find out however, as he was attacked in what I can only describe as a Thunderball-like (thank you Ian Fleming) underwater scuba battle by men also after the Baron’s treasure. As his attackers left him stuck in the Nausicaa, he had to wonder what he’d gotten himself into this time.

This was only the beginning of an adventure that spans the globe as Yeats puts the pieces together pitting him against Sir Roman Midas, Russian orphan turned British mining tycoon and mastermind behind what could become a global oil crisis. Along the way, Yeats works again with Sister Serena Serghetti from the Vatican, whom he had a previous relationship with. And it ends in a chase under the Temple Mount to stop a group intent on starting a world war.

Yeats seems to have a knack for surviving impossible situations and coming out on top or knowing who to contact when he gets into a bind, which got a bit tiring after a while. The jet-setting lifestyle and multiple talents of our erstwhile archaeologist made James Bond seem like an amateur while channeling a bit of Indiana Jones. But other than that it was fun to see how all the threads wove together.

The Atlantis Revelation was a very quick read and kept me entertained all the way through to the end. I’m always intrigued when writers work Nazis into the equation, as with The Boys from Brazil from Ira Levin and the Indiana Jones franchise. And add in the Atlantis side of things and I have to say it’s a great combination.

If you like quick, fun thrillers, The Atlantis Revelation by Thomas Greanias should be on your reading list. Check it out at your favorite library or bookstore!

–Fitz

p.s. Look for these books at Amazon!

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