Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: The Healer by Michael Blumlein

The Healer by Michael Blumlein, MD

359 pages Hardcover PYR

I have certain friends and colleagues whose opinions are a lock for me. This author was suggested to me by one such lock. Any author he tells me to read, I do. Although this novel was not specifically recommended to me I got it because it was the one the library had. Once I saw the blurbs on the cover from Kim Stanley Robinson and Ursula K. Leguin I brought it home and started right away.

At first I was annoyed by the inclusion of MD after the author’s name but in this case Blumlein being a doctor is a valid thing to point out. One of my favorite genre authors F.Paul Wilson is also a doctor. He explored the act of healing and the spiritual nature of such in a great classic horror novel “The Touch.” This novel is an interesting cousin to that novel.

The Healer is an almost surreal deeply political exploration of healing as an art. It has many moments of beauty, but many more disturbing moments. The world building here is vague. Is this a purely fantasy world, or a far future dystopia I can’t say? Blumlein leaves that a mystery and open to the imagination. Don’t get me wrong it is a well realized world. Set in four different locations ranging from a mine, a Las Vegas like city and a prison. It is all very interesting but not as cool as the character aspects.

The story follows Payne who is born to a deformed off shoot of humanity called Grotesques or tesques. The tesques has a deformed heads and a extra orifice in their chests. Something in their biology gives them the ability to heal humans collecting illness, injury and disease in their chests. There is a mythology that follows the healers. At times they are treated with great respect other times they are feared.

This feels like the theme that Blumlein seems is exploring through-out. The prose is effective and powerful. The story is well plotted and entertaining. Several moments are so disturbing I found the story deeply effecting.

Consider me a fan, I intend to check out more work by this author.

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