A Call to Mind, by Veronica Cherry

A Call to Mind, by Veronica Cherry coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Gallant Books
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Paul Goat Allen

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Veronica Cherry, a nurse turned full-time writer, has written a novel reminiscent of early Robin Cook works like Coma, Brain and Godplayer. A Call to Mind can be described as both medical thriller and (unlikely) romance.

Jessie and Chris have known each other ever since they were children growing up in Palm Beach County, Florida. They dated briefly as teenagers but broke up when the sexual aspect of their relationship threatened to jeopardize their longtime friendship. Now Jessie secretly yearns for Chris while the two continue to spend time together as friends. When Jessie’s estranged uncle Victor Fors — an enigmatic psychiatrist with a genetic engineering background — relocates to Florida from California, Jessie makes an effort to get to know him again. At an informal party, Jessie introduces Chris to her uncle with horrifying consequences.

Little does Jessie know her uncle is as unethical as he is brilliant and has chosen Chris as a guinea pig for his newest discovery: ancestral memory is not only genetically passed down, it can be accessed. With the help of a gene-producing memory protein, people can experience strong memories and repetitive behaviors of ancestors long dead. When Chris is unknowingly given the protein in the form of a retrovirus, the laid-back windsurfer suddenly becomes obsessed with country music, horseback riding and rodeos. Another time, Chris suddenly knows how to sail a ship and has in-depth knowledge of 19th century naval terminology. But when he experiences the memories of a long lost ancestor – a violent outlaw – Doctor For’s highly secret and highly illegal experiment may not only be uncovered, it may lead to the death of dozens of innocents.

The clever, tightly woven plot and competent use of dialogue power the story along to its (albeit predictable) conclusion. And while the medical and ethical aspects of the plot are the primary focus throughout, Cherry does a proficient job of threading the volatile relationship between Jessie and Chris into the story line. This realistic and intensely interesting relationship hooks the reader on an emotional level and, together with the primary plot line, makes for a fast-paced and surprisingly entertaining read.

Paul Goat Allen is the editor of Barnes & Noble’s Explorations science fiction/fantasy book review and is the author of Burning Sticks, Old Winding Way and Warlock Dreams.

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