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Bewildering Stories

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Book Review: Paul Levinson's The Consciousness Plague

By Jerry Wright

The Consciousness Plague
Author: Paul Levinson
Hardcover, March 2002 PB Feb. 2004 316 pages
ISBN: 0765300982
Price: HB--$24.95 Trade: $15.95

I first started reading Paul Levinson in the pages of Analog. His stories of forensic scientist Phil D'Amato have been particularly interesting, and I enjoyed his "fix-up" novel The Silk Code wherein a number of D'Amato tales were tied together. So with that in mind, I was pleased to find The Consciousness Plague in my "to read" pile.

Because The Consciousness Plague was conceived as a whole, it doesn't suffer from the patchy episodic nature of The Silk Road, but in some ways perhaps that is a failing. Because D'Amato is a rather dry matter-of-fact person, and the story is told from his point of view, the story is a bit dry. However, many fine police procedurals as well as the hit TV show "Law And Order" utilize that same kind of characterization.

There are basically two stories here, one: discovering the identity of a serial killer, and two: investigating the effects of a new "miracle" flu drug that seems to be be wiping out chunks of people's memories. The memory holes, of course, get in the way of the investigation, which has some holes in it to begin with.

Levinson gets in some fascinating speculation as to the nature of memory and consciousness, and why, for example, Europe seemed to forget that the Vikings reached America, and why did several great civilizations just fall apart? Could the binding factor be an as-yet-undiscovered microbe?

Although the story is science fiction/mystery as were some novels by Asimov, in this case, the mystery/police procedural is the main, grounding factor. The science fictional part is very subtle and well conceived, and if you have a friend who dotes on mysteries, but doesn't care for SF, this would be a good book to give them.

While not as grabbing as The Silk Code this book is well worth your time, and makes THIS reader wish to see more of the adventures of Phil D'Amato.

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