The Second Cure
By Margaret Morgan
Publication date: 30 July 2018
Publisher: Vintage Books Australia
Control the brain and you control the world. In a fractured nation, two women are left with a choice – risk all to bring humanity together or let it fall apart. (Penguin Books Australia.)
I loved this book. In the marketing it’s described as a science fiction or speculative fiction thriller but there are so many layers and themes – politics, neuroscience, theology, love and romance, friendship, character, justice, food and pets.
The premise of the story are the brain changes caused in humans by a mutant form of the toxoplasmosis virus. While the scientific concept was really interesting and well done, what was so profoundly unsettling about was how plausibly Morgan depicts the potential rapid political fall-out of a crisis of this kind. For that reason I’d almost be inclined to label this a political thriller. Fantastic to have this with realistic Australian settings and characters.
Reading this book was like having the kind of vivid dream where you go through the following days unsure about what has happened in real life. Unusually for a thriller – and making this a particularly literary kind of thriller – were the dimensions of the characters. The brave, abrasive, angry-for-good-reason Bridget puts up with sleazy politician Jack Effenberg calling her ‘Girl Reporter.’ Gentle, nurturing, conflict-averse Charlotte stands for scientific values and feels only relief at a negative pregnancy test. The relationships between these two women, and the network of characters, is one of the highlights of this book.
While the description, action and dialogue are whip-smart, and the characterisation and themes add a literary dimension, the prose is highly accessible in the style that many thriller and crime readers favour. I’d therefore recommend this book to anyone who likes smart futuristic political thrillers. It’s the kind of book that would make a fabulous action movie or miniseries.
I was lucky enough to have the author sign my copy of this book at the Heroines Festival in Thirroul in September and I won’t be loaning or passing this one on – it’s a definite favourite of this year and one I look forward to reading again. Grab your own copy, people, or buy one for a thriller-reader for Christmas.