Image via WikipediaA Heartbeat Away
By Michael Palmer
If you tried to think of the very worst situation that could happen in America, you would have in your hands the latest book, A Heartbeat Away, by Michael Palmer. The back of the book says it all, "Tense, thrilling, and entirely plausible...will make you reflect, wonder and be truly afraid."
Sometimes I worry that the imaginations of our best authors will truly be followed by terrorists. If this happens in fiction, it would always come out, because we have heroes in fiction books--good guys that make things right. Not so, sometimes, in real life. This time, Palmer takes us straight to the heart of the nation...
Into the Capitol Building where the State of the Union address by President Allaire is about to begin.
President Allaire has just won his second term. Interestingly, his opposition was the Speaker of the House; the President smiles a little because she won't look into his eyes as she is about to introduce him--a bit of smugness at a time like this surely is felt by anyone, including the president of the United States.
But that smugness is soon changed to terror. For as he is reading his speech from the prompter, suddenly it all started happening. Puffs of vapor could be seen exploding across the room. On the prompter, Allaire saw WRX3883...
Immediately Allaire knew what he was facing--after all, he had approved the work on the deadly virus!
And except for the Secretary of Homeland Security who had been the designated survivor to be secured away from this major event, all individuals who had control of the nation were in that room...
And exposed to a virus that the President was fairly certain did not have an antidote!
President Allaire's background was a physician. So he had discussed and fully been involved with the research that had been proposed by Sylvia Chen. He also knew that he had shut down the project.
But the terror was that some of that formula had been stolen months ago and never recovered. In fact, the man who had stolen it was in maximum security federal prison for his terrorist act.
I was not surprised that the President acted immediately to gain control. The terrorist group, Genesis, had been building up to this situation with destruction at other sites, already casualties were claimed, so Allaire knew this was real. He immediately had the entire building closed to the outside, called a group together to discuss the issue and began to direct personnel.
But he didn't include the Secretary of State, noting he didn't trust her. I wonder what might have happened differently if he had included her--for she certainly was a vengeful woman, who quickly began her own activities. Indeed Genesis took advantage of a bitter woman who could not see beyond her personal goals...
President Allaire also pulled Dr. Griffin Rhodes out of prison. While neither trusted each other, Rhodes was promised freedom if he agreed to help combat the virus. And during their negotiations, Rhodes was able to pull in two old friends to help him.
I think one of the most significant results of reading Michael Palmer's book is to study the actions of the characters. Would I have done what the President did? Would you have the ability to make those important and unpopular actions and decisions that were needed to handle the situation?
Personally, I believe this is one of the best books yet from Michael Palmer. His characters are exceptionally well done--revealing the use of power by one versus the abuse of power by another. Then, too, the novel also focuses on the potential imprisonment of individuals who are not guilty of a crime. Fortunately, Dr. Rhodes had the fortitude to accept he had lost almost a year of his life, and move on to respond to the emergency.
Dr. Palmer also uses this book to highlight a need to use computer technology rather than lab animals for research--a very worthy goal that hopefully is in the works if not already available.
The sad part was watching the reactions of many of the individuals who were leaders of their country react as they were forced to respond to the emergency. Each of us must ask, "what would we do?" and pray that we would respond affirmatively to what had to be done.
Michael Palmer puts it right in our laps this time and this one you won't forget for a long time! The book will be out February 15th; I suggest you Pre-order now--don't miss A Heartbeat Away!
From the Author