After a terrible accident, a British soldier grapples with the severity of his injuries in this debut novel.
Royal Air Force pilot Dan Stewart is sent into a coma following a horrific plane crash. When he awakens, his body is morbidly charred, and he has no memory of the accident. He’s told by his wife that he’s been unconscious for about six months, but he becomes suspicious when he realizes some of his injuries are relatively recent, and that others were simply impossible to survive. Furthermore, he’s now having vivid hallucinations and painful bouts of paranoia. He begins to suspect that the hospital ward that houses him is actually designed for the treatment of a profound neurological disorder, and he even begins to wonder if he was in a plane crash at all. He’s certain that his doctors are lying to him and to his family—but what kind of condition requires such mendacity? Dr. Adams, Dan’s supervising physician, admits that his treatment methods are unconventional; he also notes that at some point, Dan stopped taking a red pill that was designed to cure him. It’s up to Dan to investigate what that red pill did, and why he chose to discontinue taking it. Author Birri shows how Dan’s mind becomes fractured as the line between reality and fantasy blurs: “I mean, I could understand if it took another thirty-six years to destroy what’s taken thirty-six years to create, but how does just one moment of madness end everything?” This is the first installment in a planned trilogy by the author, who served in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces for more than a quarter-century. He slowly, tantalizingly divulges each detail of the plot, pulling readers in while always leaving them hungry for more. Part of the story is a thought-provoking medical thriller—a style that’s particularly emphasized in the second half of the book—which explores the pharmaceutical possibilities for improving mankind. This is a well-explored theme in fiction, but Birri tackles it intelligently and artfully.
An astute and gripping sci-fi-tinged mystery.