A supernatural medical thriller that straddles several genres.
Spencer Williams, with his long brown hair and gentle eyes, might just be the messiah. He’s also a medical researcher who has created a new drug that he hopes will cure depression, increase intelligence, send muscle mass through the roof and generally speedup human evolution. When Dr. Lara Nash, the new vice president of research and development for Global Pharmaceuticals, approaches Spencer, the scientist must decide if he’s willing to sell out his life’s work to gain corporate support. But Spencer isn’t your average lab nerd. He has psychic powers that enable him to read minds, quickly evaluate personality and character, and gain a supernatural understanding of his environment. Atkins (Best Place to Die, 2012, etc.) has crafted an epic story that involves multiple orders of angels and demons and an ancient battle between “the Creator” and the devil, aka Karel Von Graff, CEO of Global Pharmaceuticals. Soon, Karel uses his power to control Lara, Spencer and others. In the end, only Spencer’s guardian angels can protect his invention and save humanity. The novel combines the grand mythology of a fantasy novel with the paranoid suspicion and verisimilitude of a medical thriller, but the results are uneven. Atkins is a physician who invokes a palpable sense of outrage about the pharmaceutical industry’s cozy relationship with researchers, doctors and universities. The novel, however, struggles with the scope of its action, and the fantastical elements often feel forced. Characters tend to deliver long internal monologues that explain their powers and ruminate on the battles between good and evil. At times, it’s hard to determine who to care about. For example, Lara is a sympathetic character in a cutthroat world, even though she’s literally doing the work of the devil. Each of the characters also stumbles into awkward romances that feel like unnecessary attempts to heighten the novel’s emotional impact. The book is imaginative, however, and there’s something undeniably delicious about the devil saying, “I’m the head of the world’s largest pharmaceutical company…who did you think I’d be?” Ultimately, however, this thriller suffers from too much exposition, simplistic characters and a lack of focus.
An inventive novel that runs amok.