Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Author: Michael Palmer
Date Finished: August 18, 2008
Having really enjoyed the first Michael Palmer book I read, I was very anxious to try another one, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Fatal was just as interesting as The First Patient, and actually dealt with some issues that I think are really important. I almost gave up on writing this review since I was having such a hard time committing myself to actually sitting down and writing it, but I felt very strongly about some of the issues that it dealt with and wanted to share those.
This book starts out with a doctor, Matt Ruttledge, being summoned in the middle of the night from a nurse at the hospital. Since he has such a hard time waking up, the nurses have been instructed to ask him a series of questions to make sure he is really awake and will not immediately go back to sleep after hanging up. Throughout the book, Matt ends up encountering several people who seem to have gone mentally crazy, and have large lumps similar to that of "Elephant Man."
Matt is on a crusade against the local mining company, Belinda Coal and Coke Company, for the loss of his father in a cave in, and for the death of his wife by a rare cancer that he feels is a direct correlation to the mines unsafe disposal of waste and toxic chemicals. Trying several venues of complaints, Matt has become a joke for the local police and a nuisance to the townspeople. With the mine being a big source of income for most of the residents, they are doing everything they can do shut him up.
Palmer does a great job of developing several story lines within this book by giving you enough details and background information that make them all easy to follow. Even though different chapters may take you to a different place or character, you never feel confused. As the story progresses and the different lines intersect, you see the pieces fit together to become a whole.
In Washington, D.C., Ellen is struggling with her decision of whether or not to pass the newest megavaccine, Omnivax. The group she is a part of consists of several doctors and scientists who have been meeting for three years to discuss the ramifications of the vaccine and why they should support it. The First Lady is heavily influential in promoting the vaccine and has her own reasons for wanting it passed. Ellen struggles with being the only member of the group who is hesitant, which stems from the fact that her granddaughter, who was perfectly healthy as a baby, now suffers from side effects of a childhood vaccine. The percentage of children that are effected by vaccines is astonishing. Some development disabilities such as diabetes, ADD, ADHD, where others can result in death. This knowledge drives Ellen to make right choice, not just for her granddaughter, but for all those who will be administered the megavaccine.
In Boston, Nikki Solari, who is a musician as well as a pathologist watches her friend and fellow musician succumb to delusions that she is being chased and they they are trying to stop her music. When she is finally found, she has passed on and is covered by those mysterious lumps that Matt has seen as well. Attending her friends funeral in Belinda, Nikki meets one of the head policemen who seems to fancy her and asks her several questions regarding her friends death and all the events leading up to her death.
Matt, Ellen and Nikki team up to uncover what is really going on in the mine as well as with the new megavaccine. Realizing that the vaccine was originally tested on residents on Belinda several years before, those who are invested in the drugs passing, will stop at nothing to eliminate those testers who are slowly dying off. All three end up with several others in what appears to be a mine cave-in that was actually set up as a trap to keep them from discovering the truth. After barely escaping Matt finds himself yet again in trouble. Being helped out by the family in town that everyone is afraid of, Matt finds true friendship, respect and most importantly the answers that he has been desperately searching for and allows himself to once again feel love.
This book really effected me in the sense of how many big companies do not follow safety procedures. There have been several cases of groundwater contamination, toxic fumes, etc.. that are released into the environment because big companies want to cut costs, so they cut corners. Often times when something like this happens, the people who work there are too afraid to say anything because of the repercussions. Especially in situations like this book, where the entire town profits off the mine and that is where the majority of them are employed. I realize this book is a work of fiction, but the topics that are discussed are very real.
Another issue in this book is the side-effects and possible long term disability or death from immunization shots you receive as a child. How many people really know what the shots are for, or if they have been tested by the CDC and FDA efficiently. Why don't we question doctors before submitting our children to shots? Humans tend to be quite inquisitive, but there are some things we don't question, that we might need to rethink. How much of a push are the doctors receiving from the drug companies on a specific medication? How do we really know that this one is better than another one? I know that the majority of vaccines are in place to help protect our children and hopefully keep them from experiencing some really bad diseases, but should we really stop asking questions??