Charles Wilson

St. Martin’s Press / 304 pages / November 1999

ISBN: 1931081549

Did you catch Charles Wilson’s Embryo? How about Extinct? Fertile Ground? Tell me the answer is “yes,” to at least one of these questions — otherwise you’ve been missing out. Many in the publishing industry believe Wilson is one of the best plotters in the business. Many more will agree, after reading Donor.

Wilson takes us back again to coastal Mississippi — a unique, fresh setting for science fiction — for a new story of science and medicine gone awry. Of course, even without having read Embryo, readers can guess at the subject matter, if not the plot. With Donor, you aren’t going to glean even that hint; the horror in this story is going to remain in the shadows until it smacks you right in the face.

Biloxi seems like a quiet city, but that’s part of the problem; bad things are happening behind the lazy, sleepy façade.

Dr. Michael Sims is suddenly losing some of his youngest patients. In fact, the hospital personnel have an unusual number of deaths on their hands. They don’t know that someone on staff may be helping these patients along.

Shannon Donnelly is facing her own tragedy. Everyone wants her to accept that her father, the congressman, took his own life. She thinks he was murdered, and she’s not going to give up until she proves it. His death is somehow connected to the top-secret medical research group her father was involved with, Shannon insists. That accusation could make some people nervous.

Charles Wilson has a genuine talent for making readers not so comfortable with their health care. Hospitals, you’ll learn from him, may not be the safest place to be if you are sick or injured. Considering that just visiting someone in the hospital makes some people uneasy, imagine the terrors lurking in hospitals and clinics that aren’t dedicated to patients’ recovery.

A hospital is a profit-making enterprise. That sentence alone ought to scare the backless gown right off you.

Wilson understands those fears and plays on them mercilessly. Some scenes in Donor are enough to make you squirm.

(One very personal fear that affects Sims’ mother is one that has plagued everyone at one time or another.)

Donor is a fast-moving, heart-pounding, many-hyphened thriller that starts off strong and build from there. There are frightening scenes aplenty, a chase sequence unlike any other, and villains who are horrifyingly brutal and well camouflaged. By the end of the book, it is difficult to trust anybody, adding immensely to the tension.

Of course, Wilson is dipping into an area brimming with controversy. That’s just his style. If it’s in the headlines, it may well end up in one of his novels. And, just incidentally, bring up some worries that hadn’t even occurred to you.

Go on. You can take it. You’re too big to be afraid of a little visit to the doctor