Sunday, 16 July 2017
The story begins in 1966 and RAF Flying Officer Dan Stewart is in trouble, he has been involved in a 'plane crash and he is literally watching his body being consumed by the fire that is raging through the cockpit of his plane.
He awakes from a coma in hospital some six months later, to be greeted by his wife and his daughter, Claire.
But where is his daughter Lucy? And is it his imagination or is there something going on between his wife and Doctor Adams, the medic in charge of his case?
And why can he not recall the mission that he was taking part in when his plane crashed?
And there was the puzzle of his injuries. He had suffered almost 100% burns in the fire. And had survived. How was that even possible?
And how was it that when he saw his utterly horrific injuries in the hospital, the medical staff, apparently, could not?
And if he had been in a coma for six months, how come his accident had only occurred two weeks before he came out of his coma?
And what of the second accident, whilst he was under the care of the hospital that had, apparently, taken place?
He seems to be hallucinating, but which of the events that are taking place are real and which are the hallucinations?
Who can he trust? His wife? The Doctor? His nurse?
And what medical treatment do they want him to take? What is it? What is the purpose of it?
Dan doesn't want to take it. Is this due to paranoia caused by an injury to his brain? Or does he have a genuine reason for not wanting to take them?
Are his hallucinations and weird dreams a product of his illness, whatever that is, or are they trying to convey some sort of a message to him?
It's said that the truth will set you free, but what if the truth that is, apparently, being hidden from Dan, was so monstrous that it would kill him?
And what were the red pills prescribed by Doctor Adams actually designed to treat?
And what, exactly, is this hospital for? What conditions do they deal with? Burns and severe physical traumas, or is it a facility for treating neurological conditions?
Are the staff, or some of them, lying to Dan and his family?
And why are all the other patients, including a child, called Alice, all suffering from almost exactly the same devastating burn injuries that are, apparently, afflicting Dan? And how was it that the sarcastic patient Gary knew which patients, including Dan, were not taking their red pills?
And why can't Dan's family see his horrific injuries?
If he just started taking the red pill again, all would be well, he has been assured. But if that were so, why had he stopped taking them in the first place?
The basis for this novel (the first in a series of three) are some rather unpleasant medical experiments undertaken by the military, those experiments are still very highly classified, so classified that the author can only allow a hint of them to be shared.
The novel is, according to Alec Birri, "disturbing science fiction based on disturbing science fact."
This has got to be one of the best science fiction books that I have read in 40 years, in fact it reads like a book written at the height of the British Science Fiction explosion. Maybe this is the start of a new renaissance for British SF?
But don't take my word for it, buy this book at https://goo.gl/wdCFDG for £7.99.
It is published by Matador and I am eagerly awaiting the subsequent books in the series.