Thawing A.C. Nielsen by Paul Carey (A Review)

Review by Don Sloan

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Get ready for the wildest, smartest, most imaginative medical mystery in years.

Millennials and fans of SciFi stories everywhere will particularly love this thoroughly entertaining tale of futuristic fiction, tawdry reality TV plotlines, and spirited dialogue. It’s a cross-genre piece of epic enjoyment.

Kate Pearson can hardly believe her good luck. Only 28, fresh out of grad school, she’s been offered a post as head of research at a company called ExitStrategy — at a starting salary in the six figures.

Where’s the catch? It’s a big one, as she soon finds out.

ExitStrategy has a unique business concept. They put billionaires, world-famous creatives, and corporate tycoons into a deep cryonic sleep soon after death, promising them an awakening decades later when a cure has been found for cancer, Alzheimer’s, ALS, or whatever deadly disease caused their demise.

And they pay big bucks for their frozen slumber at ExitStrategy’s state-of-the-art facility in Chicago. Upwards of $1 million each. Does it work?

That’s what Kate has been hired to find out, through meticulous research in the company’s ultramodern laboratory.

The well-written storyline is supported by a cast of quirky characters including a movie star from the 40s who is helping bankroll the venture, bickering bimbos from present-day reality shows, and a trio of trivia buffs who babysit the cryonically preserved body of famed pollster A.C. Nielsen — while watching reruns of “Leave It to Beaver” on a vintage Magnavox console TV.

Kate settles into her role as chief researcher, trying to find a successful way to revivify — bring back to life — the hundreds of ExitStrategy patients. After nearly three months, she is still in a quandary.

Her roommate, a concert violinist, offers to play a soothing classical piece to help take her mind off her current dilemma.

In describing this solo performance, the author — himself an acclaimed composer as well as a skilled writer — reveals his deep love of music in a particularly lyrical passage:

“She gently laid her bow on the D string and began simply — coaxing each note along so it joined with the next to make a phrase, then a little sentence. Limpid notes slid into each other here and there. The sentences grew by sequence into a story, a wordless story of love lost, the violin’s wistful soul echoing the secrets of the heart.”

This is powerfully descriptive writing and elevates this novel far above others in its genre. That, combined with detailed medical exposition on the subject of cryonics and plenty of truly inspired plot twists, make this book an absorbing read.

Finally, Kate decides upon a unique method of bringing the patients back — but first she must test it on a guinea pig named Mr. T. After a few anxious moments during the procedure, the method succeeds and Mr. T begins happily rooting around in his cage. And, as a bonus, all the cancerous tumors that were killing him twenty years earlier are miraculously gone.

Then, a setback. Irregular brain waves indicate the animal is dying. Kate and her research team are stumped and powerless to stop the progression of the fast-moving, brain cell-destroying anomaly.

Within three weeks Mr. T is dead — again — and Kate is facing a seemingly impossible task — how to revivify all the “corpsecicles” without causing fatal complications.

Does she succeed? Is there a new beginning for the hundreds who lie in ExitStrategy’s cryonic pods, awaiting resurrection and possibly lifesaving cures? And what vital roles do outrageous characters like reality show star Khail Santana and his big-boobed wife Dimi play in the book’s shocking outcome?

Five stars to Thawing A.C. Nielsen. It’s a story of perseverance and hope, carefully interwoven plot elements, medical mystery, and complex characters, all cunningly brought to bear on a concept that is partly science fiction today — but conceivably critical tomorrow for those trying to defy a disease’s early death sentence.

Props to first-time author Paul Carey. Look for his next novel, The Grandma Apocalypse, now in progress.

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