Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley / My rating: ★1/2☆☆☆
One sentence summary: Genius scientist Gabriel Schist, winner of the Nobel Prize for discovering the cure for AIDS, is now trapped in a nursing home, hindered by Alzheimer’s, and must find a cure for a new deadly disease- the Black Virus.
He’d be the same man he once was, and he could do things right next time. He could conduct scientific experiments again. He’d never have to live in a nursing home because there would be no nursing homes. He could sail across the world. And anyone he wanted could be saved, as well.
Plot: This book is split in three parts. The first part set the story up interestingly enough, and I was eager to go on. The characters were wacky but interesting, I could tell there would be backstory to explore, and I was eager to get into the mystery of the new virus that would soon infest the nursing home our main character Gabriel lives in. However, it wasn’t until the sci-fi/fantasy elements kicked in that my mind began to drift out of the story. My suspension of disbelief simply didn’t stretch far enough for the facts and fantasy the story was trying to sell me. It just didn’t all meld, and I never found myself feeling particularly emotional toward the story after that. This story also plays a psychological game – is this all really happening, or is it all in our main character’s head? I like these kinds of stories, but I wasn’t getting enough suspense from this book to enjoy this aspect of it, and felt that the pacing of the plot could have also been faster. As for the backstory, the book does well in alternating between the past and present. That backstory was rather predictable, but I was never quite sure where the plot was taking me with the virus hunting aspect, which kept me interested.
Characters: The characters started out very promising. Gabriel was interesting, his nursing home counterparts were a little strange, and I liked his daughter in the flashbacks of Gabriel’s backstory. However, I did find that they were a bit stereotypical and predictable, which I wouldn’t have minded in the beginning if they had only been developed further as the story went on. If there were any characters I would have been interested in getting to know more, it would have been the nursing home employees and patients. They were the oddballs of the story, they made me laugh, and I was always entertained when they were around.
Writing: This book was very well written. The prose flowed well, it was never hard to understand, and I never found myself lost or tripped up by the text. My one criticism is the dialogue, particularly when I felt that an accent was being implied (such as using “ya” for “you”). It just didn’t feel entirely natural. However, I do feel that the writing was one of the biggest strengths of the novel.
Was I satisfied? Overall, I think this wasn’t a book for me. I expect a lot from sci-fi and fantasy novels in order to achieve that total immersion and suspense of disbelief, and I didn’t find it in this book. It’s got a good premise, but I think I just wanted it to be creepy and scary in a way that I could believe, and I just wasn’t convinced.
*I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.