In Geesman’s debut thriller, a secret government-funded experiment allows family members to communicate with comatose relatives, but there may be a sinister agenda.
When renowned scientist William Parks goes on a crazed, murderous rampage at his home, police arriving at the scene find his dead wife and survivors: their children, Saedie, Kyle, Sarah, and Michael. Those still alive are in a vegetative state, but there’s hope, grandmother Emily Williamson is told. Dr. Rhymer tells her of technology for constructing “artificial substitutes for brain processes.” This not only allows techs to monitor a simulated world they’ve created for the comatose, but also for Emily and Aunt Rita to enter the simulation to help ease the children back into consciousness. The experiment’s apparent success leads to an introduction of another similar patient, Marchessa. But someone soon witnesses the lengths to which the doctors will go to maintain the experiment’s secrecy. After a tense opening in which college student Saedie tries to save her younger siblings from their rifle-toting father after he’s already killed their mother, Geesman’s novel becomes a quieter medical thriller. Despite the potential for a sci-fi bend, Rhymer’s clinical details keep the novel firmly grounded. But it’s Geesman’s seamless shifting between the real world and “the digital side” that truly makes the unknown technology believable. The scenes concentrating on Emily and Rita talking to the children in simulations go on for a bit too long; they’re riveting but show little progress before Marchessa joins the story. Marchessa, however, ignites the thriller. Her father, Greg, learns that his daughter’s attack, which left her in a coma, may not have been at the hands of fiance Spencer, who was convicted of the crime. But Greg can’t tell anyone of Spencer’s innocence without violating an anti-disclosure statement, something the doctors will protect in a terrifying way. Geesman leaves the story of Emily and her grandkids unresolved at the end, but the planned sequel is sure to pick up where the family’s tale left off. Hopefully, it will explain Rhymer’s project-related conversations with a superior who’s most likely even more evil.
An understated medical thriller that serves as a solid springboard for the series.