Saturday, April 5, 2014

Resistant - RIP Michael Palmer

For my Amazon review this month, I go the privilege (to me anyhow) to get a copy of Michael Palmer's last book, Resistant.  This is the review I wrote for Amazon.
It was gut-wrenching for me to read this book of one of my favorite medical-thriller authors. While I've had other favorites that announced they would be retiring, none have ever died in the midst of a brilliant writing career. I was fortunate enough to read and review one of his other books that he sent me and also had several email exchanges, so in many ways he felt like a personal friend. Michael died in October 2013 when he had apparently finished most of this book, Resistant, and his family took it the rest of the way to complete production. It is hard to think that I will never get another new book of his to read. I tried to read this one slow to make the moment last, but as with all his books I got caught up in the story and the pace of the book and finished it way too soon.

This book was about a strain of bacteria that was resistant (hence the title) to all normal forms of antibiotics and had been released by a domestic terrorist group as a way to motivate the government to cancel out all entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, etc. Of course many in the group lived in luxury so they felt a different sort of entitlement. Dr. Lou Welcome, a recurring character in Michael's last few books, becomes heavily involved for personal reasons in trying find a cure for this bacteria that in Lou's words “turned the inside of a body into liquid”, and not nice liquid. We are introduced to a new character that Lou became great friends with named Humphrey Miller, a brilliant man with the worst kind of cerebral palsy. I could see him in further recurring roles in other books and the same with Lou's friend Cap whose life was changed forever in this last book. Of course there will be no further books, but I could see that the author would have already been plotting what kind of story he could pull off with his characters next.

Besides introducing Humphrey to us and the difficulty he faced as a man with so little control over his own body that people thought he was an idiot, instead of a man whose IQ was probably completely off the charts. Humphrey showed us that we need compassion and the will to treat people like him as normal people.  He also brought up the necessity for the world to quit taking antibiotics for the common cold and anything else that with time would cure itself. All of our overuse of antibiotics as a people hasn't discouraged the germs but has only made them tougher and harder to combat. If we aren't careful, we won't need a group of terrorists to release them on us, we will be inviting them in through the front door so to speak.

I enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written as usual and moved along at a quick pace. It was the epitome of the type of books that Michael Palmer wrote and wrote so well. It didn't disappoint.
One of the things I never do when writing reviews is read any review of the book before I write mine. Needless to say, I was stunned at the poor reviews this book received (I gave it 5 stars) most of the reviewers claiming it to be too liberal and political, boring and all sorts of other things but mostly hammering on the political leanings that they felt were in the book.

Writing a review for Amazon is like walking through a mind field, at least it is for me. If you give anything about the story away whether intentionally or not, you are jumped on for spoiling the story for the next one who might read it. One book that I read had it's entire story based on a wife whose husband had been working in a high paying career died suddenly and she was destitute and ended up having to go work on a farm. When I mentioned in my review that she should have filed for Social Security as a widow with dependents, I was jumped on with the oddest logic for why I was wrong to even think such a thing. Wishing I could make that little symbol for rolling eyes here!

 So anyway, seeing all these reviews that kept talking about how political and liberal this book was, with of course, no actual examples in the ones I read, I put my mind thinking about it. Well, the whole concept of this book was based on a group of 100 people (neighbors) that thought they could 'fix' our country but only if they follow what these 100 decided was good and necessary. I saw no talk or implications of a political party, or being right winged or left. What I saw were a bunch of crazies that thought if they could undo many of the programs in our country, then the US would be as it should be thanks to these 100, but in the meantime they had no compunction in killing people if it furthered their agenda.

I thought the book was well written. I enjoyed it. I didn't find it 'political' in the sense the other reviewers did. I wish I had another of his books to read now, but know I will never again get a new one unless somehow I missed reading some of his earlier books. Thank you Michael Palmer for many hours of pure reading pleasure which for me is the only reason for reading a fiction book.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Anne Perry Part Two

Last night I finished reading Anne Perry's Half Moon Street. This book helped me to understand why I like to read books in a series. You get to know the author and their style of writing and what they feel is important. In the first two books that I read of hers, I could see that she brings much in the way of social commentary and problems into her books and proves the point that everything old is new again, or never went away in the first place and just gets worse. In one book she discusses the Irish question which helped me understand in an historical context why there is still so much problems between the Catholics and Protestants there.

Half Moon Street, takes place approximately 150 years ago. In this era, some women were starting to question their roles in society and why they were dependent on their husbands for everything and had to do what the husbands told them to. In the last few years in England the laws concerning husbands and wives had changed and women were no longer consider to be their husbands property and they were able own things, like their underwear and hairpins, in their own right. Theater performances, etc were still highly censored by the chief Chamberlain. Any play that delved too deeply into women's inner most thoughts and gave them voice was closed down. All this laid the groundwork for the societal problem that was considered in this book: pornography. Cameras were new and photography clubs seemed to abound looking for the best way to show light, water, shadows etc. to make for the best and and most beautiful photographs. With the good of photography came the evil of scandalous pictures sold only to certain customers in the back rooms of picture shops. Women that were so inclined at times posed for these photos that no real lady would ever do or even acknowledge that such pictures could possibly exist. It was a huge change from only a few years previously when women were hemmed in on every side.

The murder that Superintendent Pitt is investigating was that of a man that had been found murdered, chained in a rowboat wearing a torn velvet dress in a suggestive pose. After finding out who the deceased was, to find his murdered, they had to go down the rabbit hole of pornographic photos to find out the why and who. At one point Pitt saw a picture and realized that once seen he would never be able to erase it from his memory. Then he thought of his children and what they would think of human nature and most especially the relationships between men and women if they saw something like this. That was the main point that was brought out, even though the person may not mind themselves being in such pictures but what of their children and how would they respond to see their mother or father in these nasty pictures?

A very interesting book to read. I look forward to reading more of Anne Perry's books, but at this point I have four new books to read and review for Amazon and my Christmas present book stack to read before I can get back to her.