An intriguing, thought-provoking fusion of medical thriller and apocalyptic fiction.
Physician Chiapco’s debut novel begins with inexplicable outbreaks of deadly diseases all over thesouthern United States and around the world: brain-eating amoeba, malaria, dengue hemorrhagic fever, etc.
With trophozoites (“savage microscopic beasts”) inhabiting the water and hordes of mosquitoes infesting the
air, the death count soon rises into the millions; medical infrastructures all over the world verge on collapse. As
civilization devolves, unheralded heroes like Bronx Metropolitan Hospital physician Jamal Jackson race to
somehow find a way to stop the modern-day plague, which has brought out the worst in human nature—
selfishness, brutality and deep-seated prejudice.
The pandemic scenario isn’t exactly original, but the brilliance of this storyline comes from Chiapcointegrating deeply contemplated scientific speculation (the influence of fossil fuels on climate change and the
viability of potential renewable energy sources, for instance) and history (the transatlantic slave trade, racism,
etc.) with Jackson’s profound experience with sickle cell disease—his younger brother died from it—and its
possible connection to saving the human race. Although the narrative’s multiple-viewpoint structure helps
showcase the scope of the looming disaster, it also, in places, slows down the story’s momentum and dilutes
some of its impact.
Even though Chiapco’s story isn’t character-driven, he succeeds in creating multidimensional playerswho are integral to the story’s overall arc, like Jackson, meteorology professor John Garrett and even white
supremacist Wayne Joseph Tucker. Fans of medical thrillers by Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen and Daniel Kalla (all
doctors turned authors, like Chiapco) will find this thematically powerful novel well worth a read.
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Featured: Kirkus Reviews,
Vol. LXXX, Aug 2012.
Critics' Picks (Indie),
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012.
A page-turner of the highest order.
--- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The Final Race is a work of fiction that relies heavily on environmental science, medical knowledge and the volatile racial history of theAmerican culture. Author Oliver Chiapco stitches together a dramatic tale of a global epidemic that pulls back the scabs of racism and human frailty, while
providing insight into overlooked aspects of the world’s shared history.
It is provocative and stunning, with an unexpected plot twist that will hold readers captive.
The opening scene introduces the reader to Wayne Joseph Tucker V. He finds himself in an emergency room after nearly severing a finger.When he is offered medical assistance, Tucker, a white man and a member of the Klu Klux Klan, refuses to be seen by a nonwhite doctor. This is where the
author sets the foundation for the racial tension that slowly becomes the heart of this story. Later, a long and detailed lecture on global warming that stalls
the action in the book briefly, becomes a crucial piece of the story as an epidemic of infectious diseases pop up in hospitals in the Northern, Western and
Southern regions of the United States. Hundreds, thousands and then millions of people become fatally ill. Chief among the mysterious illnesses is malaria.
I was initially thrown by the twists and turns Chiapco makes in the beginning of the book: There are many recurring characters, but othersmake only one appearance. What I discovered as I continued reading is that the characters that make only one appearance provide background information
that circles around later; information that is paramount to understanding the solution Jamal offers to the global community when medication becomes
scarce and massive loss of life world-wide is imminent. The epidemic and Jamal’s alternative treatment stokes racial tensions and presents a challenge to
the ill and those treating them.
This is a unique story that enlightens and inspires the reader to think beyond the small world he or she inhabits. It encourages a rejection ofseparatist thinking, and acceptance of a unified global community.
The Final Race is extraordinary. I highly recommend it.GoodReads Reviews