Invasive Procedures

by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Reviewed date: 2009 Jan 12
Rating: 1
400 pages
cover art

My wife bought me Invasive Procedures because she knows Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite writers. When I finished reading it, she asked me about it.

Wife: So what was the Orson Scott Card book about?
Me: Well, it wasn't a book and it's not by Orson Scott Card. It was a movie. Or rather, it was a novel based on a screenplay for a movie that never got made.
Wife: I thought it said Orson Scott Card on the cover.
Me: It does, but Aaron Johnston wrote it. The book is based on a screenplay which is based on a short story by Orson Scott Card.
Wife: So what's it about?
Me: There's an evil mad scientist, George Galen, who wants to take over the world and live forever. So he develops a virus that cures genetic diseases. He heals people. But the virus has to be tailored to cure each person, and if someone else catches it, it melts their face off.
Wife: That's dumb. How does it do that?
Me: The virus rewrites the DNA of the person it infects. For people who have a genetic disease, the virus rewrites and corrects the DNA segment that causes the disease. For other people who don't have that disease, it just rewrites their DNA randomly and causes them to die.
Wife: Can that really happen?
Me: No. But that's how it happens in the book. So George Galen and his Healers go around healing people who have genetic diseases. But the good guys, the Biohazard Containment Agency, stop them.
Wife: Wait, but they're healing people. Isn't that good?
Me: No, it's bad. The Healers are bad.
Wife: Oh. So the Healers are bad because...?
Me: Because they're healing people of diseases.
Wife: That's dumb.
Me: It's not a very good book.
Wife: I'm sorry I got you a crummy book.
Me: No, it's OK. It was fun to read and laugh about how bad it is. Then George Galen wants to live forever, so he kidnaps five people and transplants his organs into them.
Wife: How does that make him live forever?
Me: Oh, he also has computer chips with all his memories, which he implants in the five kidnapped victims. Then when the chip activates, his memories take over.
Wife: Oooh-kaaay.
Me: Except that the hero, Frank Hartman, doesn't let Galen's memories take over. He maintains control, and thus thwarts Galen's whole plan.
Wife: That doesn't make sense.
Me: I told you it's not a very good book.
Wife: I see.
Me: Oh! And the Healers wear capes! Sinister black capes.
Wife: What?
Me: It's not a very good book.

Here are some more thoughts:

  • Besides being a wizard geneticist, George Galen has a superpower: his saliva makes people loyal to him. All Galen needs to do is kiss someone on the forehead, and they are forever in his power. They need constant doses of his saliva, though, or they go through horrible withdrawal seizures.
  • Galen has a loyal cadre of Healers, any of whom would give their lives to be his vessels. Instead, he kidnaps five homeless bums.
  • The way the Healers operate is ludicrous. The Healers contact potential patients and offer them a cure. They come to the patient's home and inject the healing virus. The virus is contagious--but not airborne, apparently--so they set up makeshift biocontainment bubbles made of sheets of plastic in the homes and bedrooms of the patients. Then the Healers return three days later, after the patient has been cured, and administer the countervirus to stop the danger of the virus spreading. Here's an idea: the Healers have a high-tech lab with biohazard containment facilities. Why not take the patients there to heal them? Surely that would be safer than hanging plastic sheets over the doors and windows of a bedroom.
  • The BHA catches some patients who are in the middle of their three-day treatment. Frank Hartman injects them with a countervirus he developed, to arrest the healing process. This is necessary because the BHA must know whether the countervirus is effective. And no, they can't wait until the patient has been healed and then administer the countervirus, the way the Healers do. They have to do it immediately, robbing the patient of the cure to his disease. Of course the Healers administer the countervirus after the healing is complete. The BHA knows this, and knows that their countervirus will be just as effective after the healing is complete, but they administer it in the middle of the process anyway. Bastards.
  • What's a countervirus anyway? There's no such thing. There are vaccines, but a countervirus is something the authors made up. They don't explain it. It's not even junk science because it isn't even science, it's just a made-up word with no attempt at an explanation.

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