Former ER doctor Peter Clement blends electrifying human drama with the suspense of top-notch medical thrillers. Now, in an all-too-plausible story that could have been torn from today's headlines, Clement has written his most gripping, utterly chilling novel to date.
On an isolated stretch of moonlit highway in Oahu, a woman cradles her dying son in her arms. Though a physician, she cannot staunch the flow of foamy blood from his body. In the days that follow, an autopsy draws a shocking conclusion: the boy, his lungs filled with blood, died of a disease previously found only in birds.
On the other side of the globe, a burned-out ER doctor repeats to himself over and over: Physician, heal thyself. For Dr. Richard Steele, a near fatal heart attack in the middle of his own hospital was the last warning he needed. Now Steele is being recruited into a movement to examine the hazards of genetically modified foods, a job that takes him to an explosive conference in Hawaii.
Spearheaded by a charismatic female doctor, the anti-bioengineering movement is gathering steam. While a powerful company is using genetic breakthroughs to create new, disease-resistant super crops, activists warn that new DNA strains will wreak havoc on the environment. But no one suspects that the controversy is masking a far more frightening human threat.
From the war-torn Middle East to an insulated laboratory in New York, from murder in a French cathedral to an act of terrifying violence at a remote Hawaii farm, a horrific plot is set in motion. With genetic researching opening new doors, one man has realized that altered strains of DNA cannot only change the make up of plant life--they can create the deadliest weapon of mass destruction ever unleashed upon the world.
From the Machiavellian imagination of a physician/author of three paperback-original medical thrillers (The Procedure, etc.) comes this debut hardcover, mirroring today's headlines with its story of a world at the mercy of malevolent biogenetic engineers. Unfortunately, however, melodramatic, juvenile comic-book characterization, artless overwriting and distracting, tedious repetition curse the novel from page one. Following a particularly stressful day, veteran New York City ER physician Richard Steele a widower with a 15-year-old son suffers a near-fatal heart attack, totally oblivious that his karma is inexorably intertwined with a biogenetic accident that occurred 13 months before on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. At almost the same moment in nearby White Plains, Dr. Kathleen Sullivan a sort of postmodern Naderesque spokesperson for public radio's Environment Watch is delivering a prophecy of doom to media gathered at a press conference held by Agrenomics International, a mega-international corporation involved in genetic research. Three months later, Steele and Sullivan meet up at an environmental conference in Hawaii, where Sullivan makes a nocturnal foray to a chicken farm where she believes experiments in mutant viruses are being carried out, and is beset by armed gunmen. Meanwhile, Steele beds the mom of an infant victim of the mutant virus, then witnesses her suicide. Star-fated, Sullivan and Steele become allies and lovers. Clement's tale is technically astute, if plagued with unnecessary detail, but his emotionally na�ve characters and pulpy crafting leave him drifting in the choppy wake of medical suspense queen Tess Gerritsen, much less that of Robin Cook. (July)Forecast: It's doubtful whether readers will make the leap to hardcover with Clement most will likely wait for the paperback. Meanwhile, negative word of mouth could cause Ballantine to regret the unusual money-back guarantee they are offering purchasers of the hardcover edition.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
April 29, 2002
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Mutant by Peter Clements
Thirteen Months Later
New York City Hospital
Dr. Richard Steele found today's shift his worst ever in ER. Of course, Mondays were always bad compared to the rest of his week. More people arrived in emergency with heart attacks and every other kind of medical crisis on that day--a fact he knew well as a twenty-year veteran and longtime chief of the department. But this Monday's marathon seemed particularly hard, and all afternoon he felt a step behind.
One of the nurses slammed down the phone and sprinted toward the resuscitation room. "There's a precode coming--a fifteen-year-old asthmatic!" she yelled over her shoulder the way a quarterback calls a play. Everyone within earshot leaped up to help her get ready, instantly understanding what would be demanded of them. Past an overflow of stretcher patients crammed into the corridor, they scrambled after her, briskly navigating the jumble of IV poles, bags, and lines that hung like webs from the ceiling.
As he watched them go, Steele knew that not only the protocols for running a respiratory arrest would be flashing automatically into their minds. The patient's age would pump their adrenaline levels higher than usual. The prospect of losing someone so young always exacerbated the fear of failure in ER. It would be his job to make sure that the extra anxiety didn't affect his team's performance. At one time he accepted this added burden as simply another part of his role. These days he found himself dreading it. While his abilities as a resuscitator were as sharp as ever, his people skills had become nonexistent. "Put the MI who's still in resus near the head of the line!" he called after them, making himself heard above the noise of a department already loud from overcrowding.
He grabbed the nearest receiver and punched in the numbers for the cardiac care unit. In no time two nurses raced back from the resuccitation room pushing a gurney that bore a frightened-looking elderly woman attached to an armada of portable monitors, intravenous tubes, and a tank of oxygen. By then he'd at least managed to bully the covering cardiologist into giving the woman a bed upstairs, where they could treat her heart attack properly. Years of cost-cutting had made such fights into another of his "routine" duties, but this time the argument left him feeling drained and sweaty.
A low rumble of protest broke out from those who were also waiting for beds when the nurses wheeled the woman past their convoy of stretchers and parked her at the front. "Christ, it's warm in here," he complained in an overloud voice to no one in particular, continuing to scribble his clinical notes in her chart. "Would someone call maintenance again and tell them to turn down the goddamned heat? It's too bloody hot to work!"
One of the nearby clerks, already wearing a sweater, gave him a curious glance. The cardiac lady, despite being so sick, skewered her face into an expression of disapproval, pulled her covers up around her neck, and muttered loudly enough for everyone in the nursing station to hear, "I'm lucky to make it out of this zoo before I freeze to death."
The ambulance attendants rushed in with a tall adolescent who had blue lips, a gray face, and such respiratory distress that beneath his open shirt the muscles between his ribs sucked inward each time he attempted to breathe. Even though they'd given him oxygen, he kept pulling off the mask, frantically rolling his eyes and straining his head in every direction, the way a man trapped in an airless chamber might cast about trying to find a final puff of breath.
As Steele followed the stretcher between the rows of patients lining the way, he huddled with his resident. "What's your immediate course of action here?" he demanded.
"Albuterol, by aerosol, to dilate his bronchi?" she replied timidly.
"No! At least not first off. This guy's bronchi are clamped so tight that he can't inhale air, let alone medication. What are you going to do about that?"
"Give him IV steroids?" she said hopefully.
"Again, later. Right now you're going to intubate him before he arrests on you."
She flushed from the neck of her clinical jacket to the tips of her earlobes. "I'm sorry, Dr. Steele, I knew that. It's just that you're making me nervous--"
"Knowledge at the ready, Doctor, is the best and only antidote around here for being nervous," he snapped. With a wave at the boy, he added, "And your apologizing for not having that knowledge isn't exactly going to cut it with him!"
Her eyes welled up with tears.
Shit, he thought, what an asshole I've become! He hadn't always been so impatient and sarcastic when he taught. The woman on the verge of weeping in front of him appeared young enough to be his daughter, and so far during her rotation she'd proved herself no better or worse than the thousand other novice doctors whom he'd guided through the shoals of ER over the years.