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The M.D. (Supernatural Minnesota #2)

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  330 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Exploring questions of guilt and responsibility, the second book in Thomas M. Disch's Supernatural Minnesota series, The M.D., is a satisfying mix of dark humor, biting social commentary, and terrifying horror. Given the power to heal or to harm by the Roman god Mercury through a magical staff, the caduceus, young Billy Michaels embarks on a lifelong journey of inflicting ...more
Hardcover, 401 pages
Published April 23rd 1991 by Knopf (first published 1989)
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Robert Dunbar
Apr 29, 2016 Robert Dunbar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Newsweek called him our “most formidably gifted unfamous American writer.” Talk about damning praise. When Thom Disch shot himself in 2008, I felt the loss deeply, though I'd only met the man once and could hardly have called him a friend. But then I imagine that many of his readers reacted this way.

Disch was always something of a phenomenon. His novels – especially The Genocides, Camp Concentration, 334 and On Wings of Song – loom among the classics of New Wave science fiction, and connoisseurs
Robert Beveridge
Thomas M. Disch, The M.D. (Berkley, 1991)

There's a scene about halfway through The M.D. that really shows why Thomas M. Disch, though not a household name in letters, is revered by critics and discerning bibliophiles. I'm usually the harshest of reviewers when it comes to message fiction, that strain of writing where the plot is stopped in order for the writer to advance a point of view. But there's a debate here between a tobacco advocacy group executive and a bright thirteen-year-old boy that
Eli Bishop
Dec 01, 2010 Eli Bishop rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-sff
Good in so many ways, and truly disturbing. It's not as stylishly written as The Businessman or as focused as The Priest - it's the most self-consciously Stephen King-like one in the series, and it could be read as just a nicely plotted deal-with-the-devil story. But on second reading, I got the same sense that John Clute did (in his fine foreword to the Minnesota U.P. edition), that Disch isn't just writing about one misguided kid who makes bad things happen, but a whole world riddled with fata ...more
Randolph Carter
Dec 26, 2013 Randolph Carter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2012 Traummachine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is subtitled "A Horror Story", and while that's accurate I wouldn't say this is horror in the sense most of us think when we hear the term. It's not scary, and few of the normal trappings of a horror story are present. Still, this is a tale of something horrible, even monstrous.

The M.D. is the story of a young boy who is faced with a monstrous bargain: he can heal, but only in direct relation to the amount of life-force he uses to charge up his caduceus. I love the twisting of this medical
Jason Bradley Thompson
Visited by a mysterious supernatural being, who may or may not be the god Mercury, a child gains the magical power to heal... but every miraculous healing he performs must be balanced by causing injury or pain. It's a terribly tempting superpower, one that would be disastrous in the hands of an evil person, but luckily, our protagonist isn't evil... he's very idealistic and only wants to improve the world.

And that's where the slow slide into doom begins.

"The M.D." follows that child as he grows
Mar 12, 2015 Jaksen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written; in fact this writer had such a grasp of 'how-to-write,' new writers should skim through just for ideas on the craft itself. Dialogue: crisp, clear, entertaining. Narration: succinct; linear. Use of vocab and grammar, right-on. Transitions and descriptions: not a word out of place.

So why only three stars?

The storytelling has issues, imo. There are simply too many characters and too many connections between them that the book becomes bogged-down and confusing. I finished the book; I
Apr 06, 2014 Darin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The M.D. offers an intriguing premise: what if the ancient Greek gods were real? In mythology they often actively intervened in the lives of mortals. In this novel, the god Mercury offers godlike powers to young Billy Michaels in exchange for his worship. Billy receives the caduceus, the ancient symbol of medicine consisting of twisted sticks topped with the desiccated carcass of a bird, and with it can cast spells to heal and protect anything. However, much like anything so powerful, there is a ...more

"It is the oldest irony of the medical profession that doctors seem to profit from the misfortune of others."

Though Tom Disch is a favorite of mine, I was a bit hesitant to delve into The M.D. because this late-career shift toward the horror genre seemed like a naked bid for Steven King-like success. But there's nothing watered down about this novel, which finds Disch at the height of his considerable powers. The dark humor, deft characterization, and intricate plotting of his best work are all
Jul 19, 2010 Midas68 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, Heres a Doozy for ya.
I had not went the Disch route before and quickly found that this guy
is pretty darn GOod.
The book is Intelligent and Cruel. The main character is a boy who
see's Santa Clause and is givin a wand stick(ITs Magic Baby) Well he
soon grows up enough and does not believe in Santa any Longer. So
Santa turns into something more believable. That Stick has some kinda
Voodoo on it I tell ya. Only thing is, theres always that damn price
you gotta pay for using it.
I have to say the boy w
Where to begin? The beginning is great; creepy, well-written, draws you right into the family & all the characters. There is a lot of interesting foreshadowing. Then someone dies, book two begins & we're somewhere completely different. But it's okay, you get back into the rhythm of the story & persevere and it's pretty cool, although not as cool as before. And then someone dies, book three begins & we're somewhere completely different. And by that point you are tearing your hair ...more
Feb 06, 2009 Zack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Disch did a number of "Supernatural Minnesota" books that combine the presence of absurdly mundane mystical beings with very, very messed-up human beings. In this case, a young boy is given a mystical staff by Mercury, who appears as Santa, that allows him to heal any sickness. Unfortunately, he has to come up with a proportionate amount of hurt to inflict on someone else. I think they stole this for the show CARNIVALE.

The book is quite funny, but the horrific stuff comes more from the everyday
Gerardo Lozano
Me parece un buen libro, sólo no entendí el por qué se le aparece Mercurio a un niño y sobre todo el porqué ese niño podía ver cosas en la oscuridad, más allá de que le dieron el caduceo, y los saltos temporales entre libros, en lo particular, me sacaron de onda, mira que de repente William tenía esposa e hijos de la nada. Bueno pero me dejó con dudas, demasiadas.
Leif  Adams
Mar 31, 2016 Leif Adams rated it liked it

I remember my father reading this when I was in grade school. He told me a few things about terrified me. I have finally read it.

Disturbing. Amazing. Awful.

I can't NOT recommend it...

One of the scariest ideas I have ever read or encountered. Obviously a variation on the "Monkey's Paw" idea, but this one...jeez

Hideous and enticing. A true "page-turner" but is better written than
most books that you would consider so.

I give it three stars because I was still a little messed up whe
Jeremy Reppy
Not a "horror" story in any traditional sense; certainly not scary. The book has some interesting parts, but overall is just strange. An average book at best.
I think I'm as done as I'm ever going to get. I usually like Thomas Disch. This book has been sitting on my "to read" shelf for years. Its something I read hoping to love and didn't much even like. It didn't even have enough steam to carry me halfway through. If you know how much I love to read pretty much everything, you know how rare it is for me to not finish a book. I wish I could say I even wanted to at this point. Maybe I'll give it a shot in the summertime. Don't get discouraged by me tho ...more
Paul Brown
Nothing much ever happens.
Jan 29, 2008 Eve rated it liked it
I randomly found this book in a used bookstore and picked it up because of the rave endorsements. The plot summary makes the book sound a bit crazy and all over the place (a little boy visited by a vision of Santa who really turns out to be the god Mercury who wants his soul, etc. etc. etc.) but it works once you start reading. The first 3/4 of the book was great, with very dark humor and original ideas, but it totally fell apart in the last 100 or so pages, so only 3 stars.
Bruce Reid
Jul 01, 2008 Bruce Reid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genuinely unnerving, not due to discrete horrific setpieces (though it has its share) but the sustained tone of sociopathic detachment. When a literalized evil treats the world as a petri dish for its disinterested, coolly scientific inquiries, anything can happen; here, it does, again and again. Less wickedly hilarious than some other Disch, but no less wicked. A recent reread confirmed this as on of the scariest books I know.
Donna Staub
I enjoyed the book in the first half much more so than the second. It definitely did not go in the direction I thought it would, but I like the way it ended. The main character, Billy, definitely progressed into a horrible person as I thought he would. The weaving of all the characters together was well done yet I still felt like I didn't know them as well, or care about them as much as I have in other novels.
♥ Marlene♥
Back in my Stephen King days I was always trying to find a writer like him. Well Thomas M. Disch is not like him but in his own way, just as good.

It ha been so long since I've read this book (Read it in Dutch and still have a Dutch copy) but i do remember I loved this book.

So If you like King, try this book. Very good blend mixing horror and fantasy.
Dec 27, 2011 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great and engaging for the first half I was ready for a good follow up when the protagonist grew up. But then it just became ordinary and uninteresting. Didn't care for the ending just disjointed and silly. Still the first half is good enough to deserve the four stars.
Jun 18, 2008 George/Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
George: I read this a long time ago, but I remember it as being very good, unique and fast reading. I believe it is an excellent book that was overlooked by most people. It may be of most interest to guys.
Read this many years ago and have been trying to find out the name of the book and the author for ages. Finally found it, now I have to get my hands on a copy and read it again!
Mar 02, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wildly imaginative, I found this fever-dream of a tale to be viscerally & profoundly disturbing. So naturally I read it twice. Can't say that about many other books.
Stuart Chandler
Jul 18, 2013 Stuart Chandler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging horror/sci fi. Read it a long time ago but remember that I enjoyed it. Maybe I have a light morbid fascination when it comes to book selection.
Mar 29, 2012 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little out there but intriguing. It's been quite awhile since I read a book in the horror genre. While it wasn't scary, it was thought provoking.
Mar 02, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, horror
I don't scare easily, but this is one of the few books that really freaked me out. I have loved it since I first read it in middle school.
Jaime Contreras
Aug 03, 2013 Jaime Contreras rated it it was ok
This was disturbing and forgettable. It was too over the top.
Jul 26, 2012 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining, snarky novel with a wicked sense of black humor.
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Poet and cynic, Thomas M. Disch brought to the sf of the New Wave a camp sensibility and a sardonicism that too much sf had lacked. His sf novels include Camp Concentration, with its colony of prisoners mutated into super-intelligence by the bacteria that will in due course kill them horribly, and On Wings of Song, in which many of the brightest and best have left their bodies for what may be genu ...more
More about Thomas M. Disch...

Other Books in the Series

Supernatural Minnesota (4 books)
  • The Businessman
  • The Priest
  • The Sub

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