Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Cure for Madness by Jodi McIsaac

Rating: WORTHY!

"...take it to my Rob." should be "...take it to my Uncle Rob." maybe?

This novel was a roller-coaster of "Do I like it?" or "Do I not?" I started out liking it, started going sour on it around 40%, and then came back to it, so despite several issues (which are not easy to discuss without giving away too many spoilers) I decided, overall, that this is definitely a worthy read. Let's talk!

This was an advance review copy, for which I am grateful, and it’s in first person PoV which is typically horrible for me. 1Pov is so full of self-importance and self-aggrandizement, and it’s 'all me all the time', which can be sickening to read. It limits the story to the narrator's PoV, which is too restrictive, plus it gives a huge spoiler away - you know for a fact that no matter what happens, the narrator isn’t going to come to any serious harm because they're telling the story and they wouldn't be able to, had they died during it, so all suspense in that regard is lost. In this case, the author managed to carry this PoV without nauseating me, so I'm also grateful for that, but I felt that this caused a problem with the ending, which is rather hard to discuss without giving things away that I don’t want to spoil. I'll try to discuss it briefly later.

The basic story is told by Clare, who is living happily insulated (by the entire width of the continental USA!) from her family and the town in which she grew up on the east coast. The sudden shooting death of her parents drives her back. She is now the legal guardian of her brother Wes, who has some serious mental issues very much tied to Biblical matters, in particular, angels versus demons. This is not, however, a paranormal story; it's a sci-fi one with some elements of dystopia tossed into the mix.

This business of guardianship was my first issue because it made no sense. Clare is in her thirties (nice ot get a sotry abotu an older woman, so kudos for that!), and as such is a responsible adult, but Wes is also an adult, and he's being discharged and is planning on moving into his own apartment, so I don’t get why he has a guardian, and nothing in the text made this clear to me. He's either fit to live his own life or he isn’t. This was further confused by the fact that Wes's uncle lives right there in town, so why is he not the guardian? Clare has made it perfectly clear that she wants nothing to do with her hometown and hasn’t been back there in a decade or more. To me it made no sense, not even as a ploy to bring Clare back to town; she's coming back for the funeral anyway!

Yes, the funeral! Clare discovers that her mom and dad were shot by a family friend, who also then shot himself. When she flies back for the funeral, and to take charge of Wes, she encounters some bizarre behavior among the patients at the hospital and pretty soon it becomes clear what's going on. A prion disease hilariously named Gaspereau has sprung up, and is very dangerous. It makes people behave psychotically. Why Gaspereau? I have no idea. I found it hilarious because I kept thinking of The Tale of Despereaux, so I couldn’t take the name seriously. Couldn’t it have been named something else? Please?! This disease made little sense because it supposedly wasn't airborne (although prions can go that route), yet it was spreading ridiculously fast - too fast to be credible for the vector it took.

The real issue for Clare however (apart from her backstory secret which explained a lot), was that Wes appeared to be immune, and so his presence was forcefully demanded back at the hospital so they could use him to find a cure, or at least a vaccine. This was the second thing which made no sense to me. Clare shared the same genes that Wes did, yet absolutely no interest was shown in her. As desperate as these people were to get a quick fix for this epidemic, it made no sense that Clare would not have been considered. This leads me to my third problem, which is that Clare wasn't very smart, and was, frankly, a bit juvenile for her age and rather selfish. I did manage to explain away the latter two problems - to my satisfaction anyway! - when I learned her back-story, but the first was harder to excuse.

I don’t demand a genius in my female main character, but I do require that they're not painfully dumb, or if they start out dumb, that they smarten-up over the course of the story. Clare never really did, although she came through for me in other ways, which is one reason I am rating this positively. Clare wasn't the only dumb cluck. Not even the trained medical staff considered every option. I've worked with medical staff and this was a bit of a stretcher for me to swallow; however, I enjoyed the overall story so much that I was willing to overlook these issues, even the one with the 'fluffybunnies' password!

Yes, the password was hilarious, but Clare didn’t even ask if it had any capital letters or number substitutions for letters. When the password appears in print, you can see what it is, but when it’s merely spoken to you, you have no idea about punctuation or the fine details. Clare should have asked since she was not reading this novel! Or Kenneth ought to have explained it was "all one word, all lower case." It’s a minor point, but too many such points can spoil the credibility of a novel.

The ending was a bit abrupt. I would have liked more, but maybe short and to the point was better. I had ot read it twice to make sure I got it, and I gather i am not the only reviewer who was in this position. That said, I have to refer back to my problems with first person PoV. I think it was the wrong choice here. I freely admit that I typically think it's the wrong choice, but it can work. Here though, I think third person would have been a better approach, because a first person story-teller made little sense given the ending. That's all I'm going to say on that topic!

The funny thing about the ebook - which, by the way had no horrible formatting issues, thankfully - was that it announced on my phone's Kindle app that there were 4133 locations, but it would not let me swipe past location 4129. Wait - there are four secret locations? Is this evidence that there really is a government conspiracy? What are they keeping from me about this novel?! LOL! It was an amusing 'end' to a very readable story. When all is said and done, I recommend this as a worthy read.

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