Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston






TOR, 2007
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Futuristic Medical Thriller

A gene therapy has been discovered which can cure sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and other inherited diseases. Unfortunately, any other person who comes in contact with the patient during treatment dies in agony in minutes.

A treatment has been discovered for the deadly virus that makes the gene therapy work. Unfortunately, the only patients who live long enough to get the treatment are the ones for whom the gene therapy was designed. Treating them while they are contagious means the therapy won't work.

Stuck at the focal point of this moral conflict is Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hartman, known as the "virus killer" in the small community of epidemic-fighters. In one action thread we follow him into the shadowy Biohazard Agency, the medical equivalent of the SEALs. In the other thread we watch the abduction of human guinea pigs from various walks of life. The mad genius George Galen has plans for his gene therapy program, and not all of them are sane.

INVASIVE PROCEDURES opens with an introduction to one of the abductees: "Dolores never met a Healer she didn't like until the night they took her away." The Healers are a fascinating concept. Preternaturally large and strong, they are the people who administer the gene therapy, to people who have lost hope because conventional medics can't help them. Dolores is a street person caught up in the sweep the night Galen decides it's time for his big experiment. Among several other people kidnapped is Monica Owens, a cardiac surgeon. Because Galen also has her son, she can be forced to perform surgeries she hates.

Packed with intrigue, INVASIVE PROCEDURES was actually written by Aaron Johnston, a screenwriter. His strong skill is in unfolding the plot that he and award-winning author Orson Scott Card designed between them, based on Card's short story Metamorphosis. The difference between Johnston's and Card's writing is the focus. If Card had been doing the writing, readers would have been caught up in the humanity immediately. The focus on adventure shows that Johnston's habits come from movie writing. The human light in the novel is primarily provided by Monica and her son. The rest of the hook is the intrigue: the conflict between Galen and the government agencies opposing him, and the group dynamics of the people involved.

Both authors give credit to their editor at TOR, so INVASIVE PROCEDURES is a group project. As such it was not used as a political soapbox the way Card's own thriller EMPIRE was, written at about the same time. INVASIVE PROCEDURES will be especially enjoyed by readers who like intelligent adventure thrillers.

Aug 2008


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