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by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1424-6
Publisher: Tor

Near-future biological thriller, from Card (Empire, 2006, etc.) and screenwriter Johnston.

Renegade genetics whiz George Galen has discovered how to make highly infectious, individualized viruses that rewrite the entire body’s DNA. (Sprayed onto the wrong person, they kill in seconds.) He creates a corps of Healers, ostensibly do-gooders who cure people of inherited diseases, whom he has actually bio-engineered for extraordinary talents—strength, speed, inability to feel pain, preternaturally keen senses. Galen’s own saliva is also a weapon that enslaves recipients with a kiss. Lt. Col. Frank Hartman of BHA (Biohazard Agency) has created a countervirus, but he has little evidence (an abandoned lab, a burned copy of a book about a mysterious prophet) of what Galen’s really up to. Meanwhile, Galen enlists the unwilling assistance of cardiac surgeon Monica Owens by grabbing and threatening her son. And Frank’s boss, a stuffed-shirt political appointee, soon gets subverted by Galen’s saliva. Galen’s plan proceeds: He’s chosen five individuals whom he will infect with a virus, have Monica implant one of his organs into their bodies, along with a microchip containing most of his memory…and in a few days, presto! There’ll be five new healthy young copies of George Galen, with their plot to conquer the world. Despite all, Frank’s team tracks Galen to his lair. But Galen’s already vanished; the Healers grab Frank, and Monica dutifully turns him into a Galen-in-waiting. Even though the original Galen is dead, how can Frank possibly defeat him?

Iffy plotting, shaky science and annoying characters who, despite plenty of clues and warnings, do stupid things at critical moments—would probably work better as a screenplay, but Card fans and diehard futuristic thriller buffs may want to investigate.