Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book review: "Altered State" by Gregg Luke

I’ve been hearing good things about Gregg Luke’s latest book, Altered State, for several months now, beginning at a conference I attended in the fall. I had never heard of the author before, but after reading this book, I intend to go look for his other two titles, Do No Harm, and The Survivors.

First, the blurb:

Homer and Morgan Winegar believe they may have finally found happiness in the quiet college town in which they have settled. Perhaps now in their new life together with Morgan’s nine-year-old son, they can each leave a troubled past behind.

But when Morgan’s psychology students begin exhibiting bizarre behavior, the couple quickly becomes entangled in an experiment headed for catastrophe. Someone is illegally administering a mind-altering drug to unwitting students. With the potential for millions of dollars in profits on the line, the pharmaceutical designers are more than willing to set aside morals to test the limits of the subconscious and mind control.

As the growing ranks of test subjects fulfill increasingly disturbing commands, Homer and Morgan race to discover who’s pulling the strings—and how they are doing it. But as the final stages of research point to a deadly calamity, events from the past threaten to shatter the couple’s fragile trust—just as they need it most. Will they be able to overcome the forces that threaten to pull them apart and find a way to stop the impending tragedy?

Luke opens the book with a male USU student drinking something offered to him by a beautiful stranger, listens to a strange new song, then at her command, does something he never would have done under other circumstances. When she commands him to forget their whole encounter, he does, wondering what had happened. This is a perfect setup for the book, and a mild example of what the drug students are being slipped has the potential to do.

I loved the main characters, Homer and Morgan. They were very believable, likable, hard working, but both had their faults and struggles, which kept them from seeming too perfect. The escalating trouble ratcheted up the suspense nicely throughout the book, so that by the climax, there is a definite sense of desperation, far too much is at stake, and failure is not an option. The use of dates at the beginning of many of the scenes helped to pump up the tension as the final date grew closer and the reader could infer what would happen at the end of the four-week trials conducted on campus.

This book is well worth your time—thus the reason it was selected as a Whitney finalist this year. For more information about the Whitney Awards, or to see a list of books stacked against this one, check out their website.

You can learn more about Gregg Luke by visiting his website.


Karlene said...

I really liked this book too. I wish we'd found out more about Homer's secret, but that's my only real complaint. And it's not crucial to the story.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Ooh - I sat with Gregg at the Whitney Awards last year and have been wanting to read this new book. Thanks for the review. Now I'm going to go need to order my own copy! =)

Mary Campbell said...

Sounds good - I'll have to check it out.

Heather Justesen said...

I also wish I had learned more about Homer's secret, but I agree it wasn't necessary for the story--just for my curiosity! After I finish my Whitney reading I'm going to have to check out his other books.