New release book review: THE SIX by Mark Alpert

ScienceThrillers.com book review of YA science fiction thriller The Six by Mark Alpert.

BlueStar5

(extraordinary; top 10-15% of SciThri)

 

Tech rating (out of 5):

Biohazard3

Publication date: July 7, 2015
Category: YA science fiction / techno thriller (ages 12-adult)

Summary (from the publisher):

Adam’s muscular dystrophy has stolen his mobility, his friends, and in a few short years, it will take his life. Virtual reality games are Adam’s only escape from his wheelchair. In his alternate world, he can defeat anyone. Running, jumping, scoring touchdowns: Adam is always the hero.

Then an artificial intelligence program, Sigma, hacks into Adam’s game. Created by Adam’s computer-genius father, Sigma has gone rogue, threatening Adam’s life-and world domination. Their one chance to stop Sigma is using technology Adam’s dad developed to digitally preserve the mind of his dying son.

Along with a select group of other terminally ill teens, Adam becomes one of the Six who have forfeited their bodies to inhabit weaponized robots. But with time running short, the Six must learn to manipulate their new mechanical forms and work together to train for epic combat…before Sigma destroys humanity.

ScienceThrillers review:

After four adult science thrillers, novelist and science journalist Mark Alpert branches out into young adult / teen scientific fiction with The Six.

We can be very glad that he did. The Six is Alpert’s best book to date–and I’m not even a big fan of YA.

The publisher’s summary above does a good job of introducing the plot. What it fails to do is convey how well-constructed this story is, how totally engaging is the teen protagonist. Adam’s fatal condition transforms boring normal teen drama (school, friends, dating, parents) into something more poignant. He is a complex, relatable, interesting person whose expectations of his own future are upended by a risky choice to transfer his mind into a robot.

The mental and emotional challenges that follow the creation of the six “Pioneers” feel supremely realistic. Building a team takes on dangerous urgency when Sigma, the evil AI (artificial intelligence), steps up its timetable for destroying the human race. Tension grows with conflicts among the Pioneers, who are just a bunch of teenagers, and their military handlers.

In addition to a nearly flawless thriller plot, what makes The Six so good is the way Alpert has fully realized his character Adam. Adam is a believable hero from the start. His choices, his actions, and his fears ring true even in the strange, imagined realm of being a disembodied mind. Here, Alpert has done a great job of world-building, of creating the ground rules for how the Pioneers will operate, what their skills and limitations are. The reader is immersed in the “reality” of Adam’s new state, and connects with the teen’s feelings, including the horror that confronts him late in the story…

A lot of books I read because I must. Once I got started with The Six, I devoured it because I wanted to. The Six is a blockbuster of YA science fiction, imaginative and totally immersive. Teen and adult readers will be clamoring for a sequel.

If you like I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies by Pitticus Lore), you’ll love The Six.

FCC disclaimer: An advance reader copy of this book was given to me for review. As always, I made no guarantee that I would read the book or post a positive review.

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SciThri new releases: June 2015

Here’s the ScienceThrillers.com monthly roundup of newly released, or new to me, indie science & medical thrillers.  These books are among the many I don’t have time to read and review, but genre fans might enjoy.

If you are an author or publicist and would like your book listed, contact me with title, author, release date, weblinks, and summary. Only books with scientific or medical themes or characters will be included. Ask me about hosting a giveaway raffle on your behalf (paper books only).

SciThri New (or new to me) Releases:

Bonus: Book giveaways! Scroll down.

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Block 10 by Stacy Childs (2014). Medical thriller.

Luke Cooper dreamed of flying. He was an Olympic caliber skier with a bright future, when a freak accident ruined his knee, and sent him into suicidal depression. A stranger, Dr. Henri de Salvo, gave him a reason to live, and a new set of “wings,” thanks to an experimental medical treatment. With new focus, Luke turned to a career in medicine, a career that led him to accept an invitation to a secluded clinic in France where de Salvo continued his cutting edge – if morally questionable work.

Lured by the chance to help other athletes recover their lives, intoxicated by smooth cognac, beautiful women and dark intrigue, Luke finds himself drawn into another world. De Salvo has a shadowed past, and powerful enemies, and the French city of Toulon has its dark side. Through amazing medical breakthroughs, run-ins with the Corsican mob, and clubs where men fight for big money – and women, he searches for his own path. The question is, will he survive the journey, and can he live up to the age old medical adage, “First, do no harm,” while following the message of his own heart – “First, do something…”

“Block 10 is an engrossing, intelligent medical thriller on par with the best of Robin Cook. I was hooked from the opening chapter and stayed up late turning the pages. Stacy Childs weaves weighty medical issues with heart pounding tension. I loved it!” -Robert Dugoni – Author of “The Jury Master”

The Hydra by Graham Stull (2015). Indie science/political thriller.

2020. The world watches as biogeneticist Brian Matterosi goes on trial for his life before the International Criminal Court. His crime? To engineer a virus which has swept the globe and sterilised entire populations. Is Matterosi a genius or a madman with a God complex? Only one thing is certain: he is a complicated man with a difficult past.

Nobody would acknowledge that more than Matterosi’s defence attorney, Art Blume, who is spearheading the campaign to save the scientist’s life. Prosecutor Leeton Kgabu has no such difficulty: for him Matterosi is a vicious murderer who deserves death for his crimes against the human race. The world craves justice, and Leeton is determined to see it happen. At all costs.

To Art Blume’s dismay, Brian Matterosi appears intent on helping Kgabu achieve his goal. What dark secrets are driving the scientist to seek his own annihilation? Is he truly the worst mass murderer of mankind or is he its saviour? As the trial progresses, Art discovers he is running out of time to find the truth.

a Rafflecopter giveaway THE HYDRA
Cry of the Phoenix by Jay D. Gregory (2015). Indie science suspense with a dash of spirituality.

A new threat is facing humanity: a virus that grants immortality to the afflicted. As the Human Renaissance Virus touches the population, writer Marcus Avery tries to make sense of a world grappling with the prospect of eternal life. As he digs deep into the stories of HRV patients, Marcus learns the chance at immortality comes at a terrible price, and there are forces at work to make sure that price is paid in full. Cry of the Phoenix is a free fall into a world where the long-coveted idea of immortality becomes first a rapturous reality and then a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Justice Is for the Lonely by Steve Clark (2015). Medical/legal thriller.

A former Dallas football star lies in a coma after heart surgery. When his family sues, alleging gross negligence, millions of dollars and reputations are at stake. Kristen Kerry is surprised when she is assigned to the defense team–until she learns that her job is to entice the doctor’s lawyer, notorious womanizer Michael Stern, into a joint defense, then double-cross him during trial. At the same time, Stern plans on backstabbing Kristen–after he has gotten what he wants. Unknown to either of them, Stern has made an enemy of a partner in his firm, willing to enlist a murderer to extract revenge on both Kristen and Stern. Only Kristen–with her access to hospital records–can identify the killer and save Stern from the death penalty.

Fusion by Gerald Kilby (2015). Indie technothriller.

When Charles Gardner takes his sailboat on a solo trip to Monaco, all he wants is a chance to forget. To recover from his wife’s death. Then he sees something he shouldn’t. A luxury yacht. A beautiful woman. A bullet through the head. But in the playground of the ultra-rich, his word counts for nothing against that of billionaire industrialist Xaing Zhu. Gardner has only two things in his favour: Inspector Madelaine Duchamp, who thinks he just might be telling the truth, and his own skills as a surveillance expert. As the world’s press gathers to cover the the inaugural test of the massive ITER fusion reactor, Charles and Madelaine have only hours to prevent disaster. But first, they have to stay alive.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Do you enjoy thrillers with real science? Read Petroplague by Dr. Amy Rogers. Oil-eating bacteria contaminate the fuel supply of Los Angeles and paralyze the city. “Compellingly written, technically literate” “top 5 on my best of 2011 list” “the science is utterly believable” “I couldn’t put this one down”

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Guest post: Fennimore & Simms forensic thriller series by A.D. Garrett

ScienceThrillers welcomes author A.D. Garrett to tell us about the Fennimore & Simms series of forensic thrillers, in which a forensic expert uses real science to solve crimes. Good stuff–Garrett’s work got starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly. Believe No One is set in my old hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Scroll down to enter to win a signed hardcover copy!


Context is key
Guest post by A.D. Garrett

‘Context is key,’ Professor Nick Fennimore says. ‘Context is everything.’, and he will always insist on seeing the scene – even if years have passed since the murder. In Believe No One, Kate Simms is on assignment with St Louis PD, sharing US/UK expertise. Simms worked closely with Fennimore for years, so when the team discusses an unsolved murder in the blighted projects of East St Louis, she asks to visit the scene.

The building where the murder took place is condemned, but they go anyway. Using crime scene photographs, they establish where the victim died, and where her blood had been spattered and sprayed across the walls. Of course the blood was washed away and any stains painted over years before. But one scene photograph reveals a single drop on the wall unlike the others – it’s low velocity – a drip, rather than spatter. This could be the killer’s blood. And because the team is there – because they have context – they can work out roughly where that drop might have been on the wall. Tracing the path of the droplet, they find a tiny gap between the wall and the skirting board, and identify a brown stain. A power saw makes short work of retrieving the evidence. It’s enough to give them a DNA match on CODIS, and they catch their killer.

The forensic science behind this fictional subplot comes from a real case in Cardiff, South Wales. In 1988, Lynette White was stabbed and slashed over 50 times at a flat in Cardiff. Three men were convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. They were released in 1992 after Her Majesty’s Court of Appeal ruled that they had been wrongly convicted. But it wasn’t until 2000 that the case was reopened.

The forensic scientists returned to the scene. The house had changed hands and been repainted several times since Lynette’s White’s murder. Yet fresh forensic evidence was found: ten traces of blood, discovered under layers of paint. DNA techniques weren’t sufficiently advanced at that time to identify the killer, but in 2003, after the development of the Second Generation Mutliplex Plus (SGM+) test, Jeffrey Gafoor was finally identified, confessed to the murder, and is now serving a life sentence. The case later led to the most expensive series of trials ever into police corruption in the UK.

Believe No One is the second novel in the Fennimore & Simms forensic thriller series, available from AmazonUK or for pre-order from amazon US.

For more on A.D. Garrett’s forensic thrillers and informative snippets about the research and forensic background to the novels, visit: www.adgarrett.com
Twitter: @adgarrett1

About A.D. Garrett:
The A.D. Garrett novels feature forensic expert, Professor Nick Fennimore, and Chief Inspector Kate Simms, a former London Met. detective, now based in north west England. I previously published nine psychological thrillers under my own name (Margaret Murphy); I’ve always been a science geek, so I wanted to get the forensics right, and teamed up first with Prof. Andrew Barclay (Head of Physical Evidence at the UK National Crime Faculty for 10 years), and more recently with Helen Pepper, CSI, Crime Scene Manager, and now Senior Lecturer in Policing at Teesside University and advisor on UK television’s VERA and SHETLAND cop series.
a Rafflecopter giveaway of BELIEVE NO ONE by AD Garrett

Believe No One, by A.D. Garrett
Minotaur Books (July 21, 2015)

BELIEVE NO ONE is the sequel to the forensic thriller EVERYONE LIES.

Detective Chief Inspector Kate Simms is on assignment in the United States with St Louis PD, reviewing cold cases, sharing expertise. Forensic expert Professor Nick Fennimore follows her, keen to pick up where they left off after their last case – but the last thing Simms needs is Fennimore complicating her life. A call for help from a sheriff’s deputy takes Fennimore to Oklahoma: a mother is dead, her child gone – and they’re not the only ones. How many more young mothers have been killed, how many more murders unsolved, children unaccounted for?

As Fennimore’s abduction-murder leads back to Simms’s cold case, the investigations merge. Meanwhile, nine-year-old Red, adventuring in Oklahoma’s backwoods, has no clue that he and his mom are in the killer’s sights. But soon the race is on to catch a serial killer and save the boy.

For more on A.D. Garrett’s forensic thrillers and informative snippets about the research and forensic background to the novels, visit: www.adgarrett.com

Reviews
Publishers Weekly STARRED review: ‘Fine attention to forensics and investigative techniques distinguishes this stellar thriller.’

Kirkus: ‘Garrett evoke(s) not only the suspense of serial killings, but an emotional triangle and a tantalizingly unresolved crime that keep the pages flying.’
Library Journal: ‘Recommended for readers who like their British procedurals and forensic thrillers dark and bloody.’

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EATING BULL by Carrie Rubin

Physician-author Carrie Rubin, author of the medical sci-fi thriller The Seneca Scourge (reviewed by ScienceThrillers.com here), has penned another page-turner titled Eating Bull. I had the privilege of reading an early version of this manuscript which draws on the author’s public health experience with obesity. Rubin’s bold use of this unusual subject matter for a thriller makes Eating Bull stand out, along with her portrayal of a less-than-heroic, psychologically wounded young man as the gentle protagonist.

Here’s the deal: Eating Bull is in the running to earn a publishing contract through Kindle Scout, a crowd-sourced nominating system. If this sounds to you like a book that deserves to find an audience–maybe even you–please go to the Kindle Scout page and nominate Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin.

A fight with the food industry turns deadly.

Jeremy, a lonely and obese teenager, shoots into the limelight when a headstrong public health nurse persuades him to sue the food industry. Tossed into a storm of media buzz and bullying, the teen draws the attention of a deranged killer, one who’s targeting the obese. Soon the boy, the nurse, and their loved ones take center stage in a delusional man’s drama.

“A solid thriller that manages to infuse one boy’s coming-of-age with a whole lot of murder.”—Kirkus Reviews

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SciThri new releases: May 2015

Here’s the ScienceThrillers.com monthly roundup of newly released, or new to me, indie science & medical thrillers.  These books are among the many I don’t have time to read and review, but genre fans might enjoy.

If you are an author or publicist and would like your book listed, contact me with title, author, release date, weblinks, and summary. Only books with scientific or medical themes or characters will be included. Ask me about hosting a giveaway raffle on your behalf (paper books only).

SciThri New (or new to me) Releases:

Special this month: Scroll down for book giveaway!

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The Virus by Stanley Johnson. Science thriller (May 2015).

How do you stop an invisible killer?

When a young woman in New York City dies mysteriously after a trip to Brussels, top epidemiologist Lowell Kaplan identifies the cause of death as the Marburg Virus—a fatal strain that has surfaced only once before in history.

Determined to trace the source of the disease, Kaplan follows a trail of intrigue from the labs of Germany to the jungles of Central Africa.

With danger nipping at his heels, and the secrets of the virus’s origin kept deliberately under wraps, Kaplan must go to unimaginable lengths to stop a deadly scheme.


An Angel’s Alternative by Rick Brindle. Indie hospital drama.

Riverside General Hospital, a place of harsh realities.
On Ingram Ward, Staff Nurse John Hunter is a man on the edge. Unable to move on from the recent traumas in his life, pushed to the limit, and liking his job less and less, he makes a drugs error, and questions why he even wants to be a nurse. The incident puts him on a collision course with the hospital’s new matron.
John’s best friend, Australian coronary care nurse, Dave Chiltern, discovers that helping a friend run his pub while he’s unwell can be more rewarding than his current job.
Roxanne Jones, John’s girlfriend and a care assistant on Ingram Ward, is contacted by her former boyfriend, who tries to re-ignite old flames.
Ingram Ward’s Sister, Sarah Ashe struggles to focus on her job after leaving her violent husband.
Facing the impossible expectations of front-line NHS care, the nurses who struggle to save lives and preserve their own sanity as they do so, all face choices of their own. Do the angels have an alternative?

Toro!: An Allie Parsons Novel by Frank Schwalbe. Indie medical thriller (2015).

Allie Parsons is a single mother, struggling to raise a teenage daughter and keep her scars and past hidden. Her old life as a stripper has no pull, but even now her headstrong ways prove difficult to control. Allie suspects that Toro, a serial killer and her attacker, is still at large and most likely stalking her.

But obsessing over that helps nothing. She’s finished medical school and is training at the morgue, and with the help of both her beautiful daughter and patient pastor, she’s rebuilt a life. It isn’t perfect, but her faith and determination are strong.

However, her first case at the morgue keeps scratching at her old wounds, and she can’t explain why. The body is supposed to be millionaire Franz Bergman, but she has a hunch it’s a cover-up. Determined to prove her theory, Allie conducts an investigation that circles her right back into danger and darkness. As she draws closer to solving this mystery, a menacing stranger threatens her new life.

Allie must stand firm in her beliefs and rely on her strength and intuition to protect herself, her daughter, and the better future she’s working to achieve.

a Rafflecopter giveaway of TORO

The InnerGlow Effect by Craig Robertson. Indie medical thriller.

There’s a new drug on the market, but it’s not everything it seems to be. For ER doctor Paul Hunter, strange things are afoot. Patients near death are having visions of the afterlife, convinced their souls have been escorted away during trauma. The sole connection between the survivors is an antidepressant called InnerGlow. Newly-ordained priest Pablo Morales has committed himself to a life dedicated to the church, but even holy men have doubts. When parishioners begin confessing their experiences of life after death, Pablo takes it upon himself to investigate their claims. GlobalMed sets the pair in its sights, attempting to uncover how much they know about the InnerGlow Effect and how to keep it quiet while reaping the profits of a society hungry for a new quick-fix pill. Two men stand against a massive corporation to find an answer to life’s big question: Is there life after death?

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Do you enjoy thrillers with real science? Read Petroplague by Dr. Amy Rogers. Oil-eating bacteria contaminate the fuel supply of Los Angeles and paralyze the city. “Compellingly written, technically literate” “top 5 on my best of 2011 list” “the science is utterly believable” “I couldn’t put this one down”

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SciThri new releases: April 2015

Here’s the ScienceThrillers.com monthly roundup of newly released, or new to me, indie science & medical thrillers.  These books are among the many I don’t have time to read and review, but genre fans might enjoy.

If you are an author or publicist and would like your book listed, contact me with title, author, release date, weblinks, and summary. Only books with scientific or medical themes or characters will be included. Ask me about hosting a giveaway raffle on your behalf (paper books only).

SciThri New (or new to me) Releases:

Special this month: Scroll down for book giveaway!

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The Florentine Deception by Carey Nachenberg. Technothriller (release date: April 14, 2015).

You never know what secrets you’ll find buried inside an old computer.

On a whim, twenty-something cyber-security expert Alex Fife engages in a bit of voyeuristic digital snooping while cleaning up an old PC for a charity. To his surprise, Alex learns that the computer’s deceased owner, a shady antiquities smuggler, had been trying to unload a priceless object known as the Florentine on the black market. But with the dealer’s death, the Florentine is unaccounted for and potentially ripe for the taking.

Hooked by the prospect of solving a mystery, Alex embarks upon a quest through subterranean grottos, freezing morgues, and hidden cellars in search of the Florentine. But what starts out as a seemingly innocuous pursuit quickly turns into a nightmare, as Alex discovers that the Florentine may not be a lost treasure after all, but something far more insidious. A weapon that, in the wrong hands, could bring the developed world to its knees—one that Alex’s adversaries will do anything to acquire.

Will Alex unlock the secrets of the Florentine in time to prevent a catastrophic attack? Read The Florentine Deception to find out!

a Rafflecopter giveaway of THE FLORENTINE DECEPTION by Carey Nachenberg

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Do you enjoy thrillers with real science? Read Petroplague by Dr. Amy Rogers. Oil-eating bacteria contaminate the fuel supply of Los Angeles and paralyze the city. “Compellingly written, technically literate” “top 5 on my best of 2011 list” “the science is utterly believable” “I couldn’t put this one down”

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Get your kid off screens and into nature: new book How to Raise a Wild Child

Just heard author Scott Sampson interviewed by Michael Krasny on NPR’s “Forum” about his new book How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature.

We need to find ways, individually and collectively, to get kids interacting freely with the outdoor world. This is a topic dear to me, and I’ve coached four teams of elementary school kids in the Sacramento region’s Nature Bowl. In his landmark book Last Child in the Woods that coined the term “nature deficit disorder,” Richard Luov made the case for why nature experiences are so important for individual mental & physical health, and our society as a whole. In How to Raise a Wild Child, Scott Sampson reiterates and updates the argument, and attempts to give “the necessary tools to engender a meaningful, lasting connection between children and the natural world.”

From the publisher:

From the beloved host of PBS Kids’ Dinosaur Train, an easy-to-use guide for parents, teachers, and others looking to foster a strong connection between children and nature, complete with engaging activities, troubleshooting advice, and much more.

American children spend four to seven minutes a day playing outdoors—90 percent less time than their parents did. Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth. Regular exposure to nature can help relieve stress, depression, and attention deficits. It can reduce bullying, combat illness, and boost academic scores. Most critical of all, abundant time in nature seems to yield long-term benefits in kids’ cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Yet teachers, parents, and other caregivers lack a basic understanding of how to engender a meaningful, lasting connection between children and the natural world. How to Raise a Wild Child offers a timely and engaging antidote, showing how kids’ connection to nature changes as they mature.

Distilling the latest research in multiple disciplines, Sampson reveals how adults can help kids fall in love with nature—enlisting technology as an ally, taking advantage of urban nature, and instilling a sense of place along the way.

SCOTT SAMPSON is a dinosaur paleontologist and science communicator. He serves as vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and, as “Dr. Scott the Paleontologist,” hosts the PBS KIDS television series Dinosaur Train.

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New release book review: BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande

ScienceThrillers.com book review of Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.


BlueStar5

Publication date: October 2014
Category: nonfiction; medicine, end of life, long-term care

Summary (from the publisher):

In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

ScienceThrillers review:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is a beautifully written, thoughtful, moving, and important book that will profoundly influence the way that you think about how America (and the rest of the rich world) manage the debility that comes with aging, and the separate (but related) issue of how the health care system fails people who are dying. It’s a must-read for anyone with aging parents, or anyone who hopes to grow old, and also for physicians.

While many books have been written about these issues, Gawande’s book stands out for his brilliant writing and the book’s superior editing. Many different strands of thought and story are woven together into a compelling, coherent whole that I read in a single sitting.

First, Gawande covers the origin of “nursing homes” and the more recent “assisted living” movement. With excellent stories and insight, he explains the fundamental tension between what the system thinks the elderly want–safety, security, food, medicine–and what actually makes people happy–the power to make their own choices and to have a purpose in their lives.

In the second part of the book, he delves into the way modern medicine drives ever-more interventions and treatments and procedures at the end of life, even when this medicalization of dying diminishes the quality of what life remains. He makes a compelling argument for how doctors (and patients) should be talking to each other to help the dying achieve the kind of end they really want.

Along the way, the author’s anecdotes from his own practice as a surgeon are illuminating, but none approach the power of his own story. Gawande walked this path himself, at his parents’ side, when his father was diagnosed with a spinal tumor. His portrayal of this very personal journey has something to teach us all–and will elicit more genuine emotion than any novel.

A page-turning, beautiful, important book that won’t take you long to read but will empower you and give you much to think about. Highly recommended.

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