My rating: 4 of 5 stars
From the Prologue to the final spellbinding pages, Dustin Thomason’s 12-21 (Random House 2012) is a page-turner. Within five minutes, the reader is locked in the grasp of two seemingly unrelated stories, told in tandem throughout the novel. Each new twist wraps them tighter together until the plot is a Gordian knot that will take all of the brilliance of the story’s main characters to unravel.
Gabriel Stanton, an unhappily divorced workaholic, runs a prion research facility. Its initial goal, now fallen into disrepute, is to find a cure for prion viruses–a particular strain of virus that has no known treatment. When he is called to consult on a patient who could be suffering from his specialty, he must not only come up with a therapy–something funding cuts and bureaucracy have prevented him doing since the center opened–but convince the CDC that the solution is to be found in the collapse of a booming Mayan city almost a thousand years ago. He gets assistance from a Mayan archaeological expert–Chel Manu–who comes into possession of a codex which the pair determine holds the treatment key. The trick is to decode it and then understand it through the lens of the long-dead heroes who wrote it–before life as they know it ends.
Which seems to be December 21st, a day predicted by in Mayan scripture.
The plot is an intriguing blend of science, history and the best elements of the thriller genre (heroic main characters, noble intentions–that sort of stuff).
Thomason has a wonderful knack for etching a character with a few well-placed words. Within sentences of the story’s beginning, we see Stanton’s flaws, humanity, decency, and brilliance. He does it within the plot lines via dialogue and action in ways any aspiring writer wishes s/he could do as succinctly and effective.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You ask: Why the four stars? Two reasons:
- that Chel comes into possession of the codex that can cure the disease is hard to swallow. It traveled from Guatemala to her front door. Thomason provides rationale, but really?
- the Zero Patient for the modern-day prion epidemic just happens to come from the Guatemalan home town of Chel’s family. Again, really?
Coincidences always weaken a story, so I had to ignore these and continue.
Which I did, right up to the feel-good ending. My conclusion: I’m going to keep reading Dustin Thomason
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.