ad info

CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 ASIANOW
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
   news
   interviews
   first chapters
   reviews
   reader's cafe
   bestsellers
   games
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast
 pagenet

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:
Book News

Move over, Robin Cook

'Stinger'
by Nancy Kress

Forge, $24.95

Review by L.D. Meagher

(CNN) -- A United States Senator who might be running for president collapses during a speech and dies. A small-town hospital in southern Maryland is suddenly deluged by people dying from cerebral strokes. The patients all have something in common -- they and the senator are African Americans. They all seem to be suffering from a form of malaria.

Malaria? How can a disease virtually unknown in the United States suddenly start killing people, especially black people? That is the mystery at the heart of "Stinger" by Nancy Kress. The author, a veteran of the science fiction genre, bursts into the mainstream with a medically-themed techno thriller. Move over, Robin Cook. There's a bold new voice on your block.

Working from opposite ends of the outbreak, FBI Agent Robert (Don't Call Me Bob) Cavanaugh and CDC epidemiologist Dr. Melanie Anderson join forces to unearth the cause of, and the reason for, the bizarre malaria outbreak. Thanks to a freewheeling reporter in Baltimore, the disease becomes front-page news and as the death toll mounts, so does the apprehension of the general public.

The investigation determines the strain of malaria sweeping through the mid-Atlantic states is tailored specifically to attack people carrying the sickle cell blood trait. The vast majority of people with that trait are black, though smaller populations with roots in India and the Mediterranean also carry it. The next question is obvious: was this parasite genetically engineered to carry out genocide against African Americans?

Kress weaves the racial tension into the very fabric of her story. Anderson is the only African American investigating the outbreak. As she ponders the science, she also struggles with the social implications. She's convinced the disease is a terrorist weapon. Cavanaugh is not convinced, but he won't let go of the case until he's sure. Their dogged pursuit of the truth leads them into ever-deeper hot water, especially when the evidence begins to point toward their own employer -- the U.S. government.

There are no helicopter chases or stadiums exploding in "Stinger"; Kress doesn't need those kinds of crutches to prop up her plot. Instead, she builds the suspense from within, carrying the reader along at an ever-increasing tempo without resorting to the thriller genre clichés that litter works by much more famous writers. Her story is devilishly inventive, her characters are more than cardboard cutouts, and they wrestle with important issues -- medical and ethical -- every step of the way.

"Stinger" isn't about shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles. The title refers to the disease vector of malaria-mosquitoes. The novel demonstrates that even the smallest of weapons can pack an explosive punch.

L.D. Meagher is a senior writer at CNN Headline News. He has worked in broadcasting for 30 years.

SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

  
 

Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.