Book review
"The Miracle Strain" by Michael Cordy
ISBN 0-380-73042-1, $6.99 US
By Fredric L. Rice

Here is a book which everyone who is interested in contemporary genetic research will enjoy reading. And, though I don't normally surrender myself to prophetic visions, I would have to nonetheless prophecy that some of the more fundamentalist Christian brothers and sisters among us will find this book annoying to the point of blasphemy.

Mr. Cordy has written his first book ever, and it's a doozy. Cordy's science fiction mix of genetics, contemporary computer technology, and contemporary Christian religion was, for me, a spell-binding look into possibilities that are waiting, right around the corner, for humanity in its blind rush into an ever more technological future.

In Cordy's work, Doctor Tom Carter wins a Nobel Prize for his work in genetics. Dr. Cordy's team creates a machine capable of reading the genetic make-up of any sample of DNA and, not only can it predict the future medical history of an individual, it can search criminal data bases for matches of genes found at crime scenes.

The Preacher, an agent of an ancient Christian organization which calls itself "The Brotherhood," attempts to assassinate Dr. Carter for his "blasphemy" of "playing god." Though the agent of The Brotherhood has successfully fulfilled every murder contract to date, she botches Dr. Carter's assignation and ends up murdering his wife.

Though Dr. Carter has the financial resources and the political power to hunt down and avenge his wife's death, Cordy keeps the character of the doctor -- a healer who saves people -- true to form; Dr. Carter doesn't rage against his unknown enemy nor against the fates which prompted his wife to take the bullets meant for him. Together with his young daughter, he quietly mourns the loss of his beloved wife.

Motivated by the loss of his wife, Dr. Carter puts his daughter's DNA through his machine to discover if there are genetic defects which could deprive him of his sole remaining family member. He discovers that his daughter contains the same genetic defect that his mother had which resulted in cancer of the brain. It is then that Dr. Carter becomes the stereotypical "man possessed" and searches the world for a cure.

He becomes convinced that the only salvation for his daughter is to locate the genes of the late Jesus Christ which, he hopes, will contain unique instructions capable of being mass produced with the contemporary viral replication technologies common today in the real world. He, together with a few trusted friends, steals as many holy relics as he can get his hands on and tests them in his machine for anything out of the ordinary.

His hopes are dashed when the final tests are completed and it's found that all of the alleged holy relics highly touted among the faithful are found to be frauds. From stigmata, burial cloths, liquefying blood et al. are tested and found to be frauds.

Minutes after defeat begins to settle among Dr. Carter's team, new hope arrives in the mail, promising the very DNA he seeks. Thus begins an unknowing alliance with the people who ordered his assignation and killed his wife: The Brotherhood who have been keeping safe 2,000 year old artifacts, including a tooth of one Jesus Christ, and one of the nails he was crucified with; both containing the very DNA Dr. Carter has been searching the world over for.

The Brotherhood, you see, seeks their new Messiah and only Dr. Carter's database of DNA sequences for hundreds of millions of people in the world, together with his machine, can help The Brotherhood locate him before their own deadlines expire.

In desperation, he accepts the alliance and, in so doing, takes the reader through just a few of the consequences of the future of gene research.

Even more importantly, though, are the questions Dr. Carter must answer. Do the genes of Jesus Christ actually contain the basis for a universal cure for all of humanity's woes? Can he and his team replicate and make use of these genes if they do? Will his daughter be saved in time if a cure can be created? Will The Brotherhood find their new Messiah and, if so, once they have what they want will they again attempt to assassinate Dr. Carter and all of his team for their blasphemous work?

Or was Jesus Christ really the son of a god and his genes were not unique? Was Jesus Christ really able to heal through divine actions and not due to a unique genetic make-up?

The ethical questions are asked and, in the end, remain as unanswered as they are today. If Dr. Carter's quest is successful, he saves his daughter but condemns the world to an eventual and inevitable series of mass starvations. Does he have the right to be so selfish? Do any of the scientists now working in genetics research have the moral and ethical right to "play god?"

Cordy's science fiction thriller is a roller-coaster ride through an amusement park consisting of sterilized, brightly gleaming hospital corridors, haunted by a highly symbolized personification of both potential good and abject evil. At one end of Michael Cordy's corridor we begin with a tragedy which starts with our hero numbly clutching his dead wife's body as he blindly stares upward into an empty and uncaring sky. At the ride's end, our hero acquires a new vision and, in so doing, gives the reader some of that vision and leaves the reader asking, "what if?"


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