THE CHANGELING PLAGUE
Roc / 336 pages / February 2003
Nothing packs the gut-wrenching fear of a pandemic; no disaster evokes the all-out panic that a killer virus let loose on the world instantly spreads. How much more quickly that terror blooms when we learn that the lethal plague is manmade. Do you feel that rush of ice water in your veins at the admission that our best medical minds have no way to stop this catastrophe? Well, prepare yourself for that kind of impact as you embark on Syne Mitchell’s latest breathless bullet-train of suspense.
But do remember that Mitchell’s books are never simply thrillers, with the usual villainous plot to wipe out humanity. The hand that releases The Changeling Plague is a man with only months to live who wants only to be cured. Tragically for the rest of the world, the genetic “cure” he has paid a doctor dearly to engineer rapidly hits everyone else who comes into contact with it and people begin dying by the thousands. The tens of thousands. The fact that such research is forbidden by world-wide treaty; that’s almost inconsequential now, unless you’re one of the millions whose lives are shattered by the plague. Then, you just might be out for revenge.
Using her amazing ability to make the complex fathomable, Mitchell once again takes us off on, yes, a high tech countdown to disaster, but also a study of harrowing moral choices. How many of us would take the same route Geoffrey Alen, Patient Zero, embarks on if we knew our lives were rapidly coming to an end? Desperate, terminally ill people leap at the chance to try untest treatments all the time, if there is even a slight chance that the latest idea might save them. How nobly and serenely would any of us await death?
The Changeling Plague challenges much of the current thinking on genetic testing and the debate over “playing God.” Even as readers mull over these issues there are more basic questions to consider: What, precisely, does it mean to be human? Do we accept our physiology and potential as a static, a given, only because we have found no radically way to alter our make up? Presented with more options, would we be willing to expand our definition to the limits of our dreams and our bank accounts? This plague brings this from a strictly theoretical question to stunning possibility. Now, what do we do?
One thing for certain: we keep reading, as fast and as avidly as with any of Mitchell’s fiction. From a spectacular debut novel to this latest straining at the envelope, her command of narrative and her talent for enlightenment just keeps getting better. Enthralling stories, tangible characters, and a chance to examine our own views on the world that is changing at light-speed around us… What more could you ask of an author? Even if you think of something else, there’s little doubt that Syne Mitchell could deliver, beyond your expectations.