by Vladimir Lange
(excellent; top 30% of SciThri)
Year published: 2011 (ebook); 2005 (hardcover)
Category: sci/med thriller; romantic suspense
Tech rating (out of 5):
SUMMARY (from author’s website):
The MEG – a revolutionary brain scanner – is the culmination of Dr. Anne Powell’s brilliant career as a neuro-psychiatrist. Designed to accomplish in seconds what conventional psychotherapy can only hope to achieve in years, the MEG could change the course of psychiatric treatment forever – if it doesn’t kill her first.
A clash with the FDA forces Powell to leave Boston and continue her research at the world-renowned Pavlov Institute in Moscow. There, a laboratory accident reignites a centuries-old conflict, and threatens to return a blood-thirsty dictator to power.
Powell soon realizes that the MEG is capable of far more than brain-scanning. She is forced to confront past and present, reality and memory, love and hate in the ultimate battle to save herself and the man she loves.
The standard “back cover” summaries of Fatal Memories, including the one above, fail to convey what this book is really like. By synopsis alone, it sounds like just another medical thriller, with a Russian twist and a bit of love story. But it’s much more than that. Vladimir Lange’s Fatal Memories is a Romance, with emphasis on the capital “R”. I’d never read a book quite like it. And I loved it.
This novel combines what you expect–slightly futuristic, science-based realism of a good science/medical thriller–with an unexpected dose of Romanticism: not just sex/love romance, but the whole package of passionate sensibilities, uncontrolled irrationalism, and exotic locales linked to an exotic past. In Romances, men and women love but they also choose to suffer and die for love. Pain and pleasure are two aspects of a Romantic existence which puts reason in the back seat and allows natural urges to follow their own course regardless of the consequences.
The fascinating Romantic twist in Fatal Memories centers on our protagonist, hyper-rational medical technology innovator Dr. Anne Powell. In Dr. Powell’s world, everything is measurable, explainable. She does not indulge her “feelings”, though we learn that an earlier experience with true love left her strangely damaged and afraid to ever love again. The twist? This Spock-like woman experiences odd dreams, realistic dreams of a lovers’ tragedy from medieval Russia. At first, she ignores them. Then she assumes the visions were prompted by a novel she read long ago. As the visions increase in frequency and intensity, becoming waking hallucinations rather than sleeping dreams, she applies her scientific method to investigating the cause. The answers she finds clash with her rational world view, but she cannot escape the reality of what she is experiencing.
I loved this contrast between the woman’s scientific approach and the utterly unscientific problem which threatens to destroy her–or make her utterly anew. On top of that, the setting is a combination of present-day and medieval Russia. Author Lange is himself Russian, and his simultaneous affection for and frustration with his homeland comes through in many passages. The “action” is sometimes bogged down by details about Russian culture, music, and history, but these details weave a web of authenticity and add to the exotic strangeness of what Anne is going through.
The science/medicine in this one is a mixed bag. Vladimir Lange is a physician as well as author, and he gets right the culture of medicine and medical research in this book. The basic tech details about brain scanning and ablation also ring true, but obviously the story drifts into SciFi territory with its past-lives theme.
Bottom line: I was utterly swept up in the story of a tragic love affair which has lasted for hundreds of years, combined in this book with the trappings of a great medical thriller. (Watch for the Swan Lake scene!) By the climax, past and present events are merging, history threatens to repeat itself, and the reader surges along to the finish. Highly recommend for SciThri fans who have a romantic streak. (Hard-core techno/action thriller fans, look elsewhere, this book isn’t for you.)
Parent alert: sex, sexual violence, and adult themes
FCC disclaimer: A free e-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.
If you enjoy the fusion of medical thrills with romance, try:
Lifelines by CJ Lyons