One of the groundbreaking features of Marvel Comics in the early 1960s concerned their characters’ relationship to their powers. Unlike DC Comics, where it was a given that being superhuman was a good thing, Marvel’s characters regarded their powers as a curse, and when the opportunity presented itself, happily ditched them. A prime example of this was Spiderman, who hated the “great powers” he had to be “responsible” about because it prevented him from living a normal life.
But Marvel did emulate DC at that time by presenting a patriotic view of the establishment that was worthy of defending by superheroes (even the inarticulate Hulk sided with a US army and police that frequently hunted him down against the Communists). By the time of the Watergate era, however, this view was jettisoned, and the American government now was as sinister as the Kremlin.
J.P. Doyle combines both of these features in this excellent novel. His protagonist, Alex Trent, is “gifted” with the ability to heal others with one touch of his hand. But his power quickly becomes a curse; both from how it is affecting him personally, and also from how it has made him the target of power-hungry establishment types. In less skilled hands, these themes never transcend their well-worn cliché status. In Doyle’s however, they come across as fresh and innovative. Much of this has to do with how Doyle, an emergency room nurse, grounds his novel in medical realities; and having established a trust with the reader is able to carry them along when the novel shifts into the supernatural.
Trent is not a particularly likeable character. His immediate reaction upon learning about his powers is how it can fatten his wallet. But because of the sinister nature of those who relentlessly pursue him and his growing concern for what will happen to society if he turns evil, he emerges as a character readers can root for. Doyle has a gift for suspense and for seamlessly inserting medical matters into this excellent novel without slowing it down.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader