Vicki's Reviews > 12.21

12.21 by Dustin Thomason
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's review
Aug 12, 2012

really liked it
Read in August, 2012

December 21, 2012 is the last day of the Mayan long calendar, and the date has long been associated by many as the day the world as we know it, ends. Author Dustin Thomason, an MD himself, has written a fast moving medical mystery thriller that has us all wondering if this could be how life as we know it will disintegrate all around us.

December 14 begins with the usual routine for Dr. Gabe Stanton: bike ride, coffee at his favorite coffee shop and then on to work at the CDC Research Center in LA. But his first call sends his day spinning wildly off kilter, as he hears the symptoms described which could mean that a very rare, but potentially fatal disease has attacked a John Doe patient just recently admitted to the hospital.

In the meantime, a Mayan researcher at an LA museum, Chel Manu, has received a hurriedly delivered package for safe-keeping from a shady antiquities dealer. It may be fake, but the more she looks at it, the more she believes she has received the genuine article, an ancient codex which almost certainly is even older than the existing Mayan writings currently housed in a few fortunate Museum collections. That means it is illegal for her to possess it and that legally it should be returned to the country of Guatemala, from which it was no doubt stolen and secreted out of the country in hopes of a quick sale to dealers in the US.

As Chel ponders her ethical dilemma, she receives a call from the hospital where the John Doe is being treated. He speaks no English and the translation panel at the hospital believes he is speaking a Guatemalan dialect. When Chel speaks to the patient, she realizes that he does speak the dialect of her birthplace. The doctors are guiding her to ask questions that will help them isolate the source of his disease, which most likely came from something he ate. His frightening symptoms include insomnia, hallucinations and an incredible unquenchable thirst. As she asks questions she comes to realize that he is very likely the agent who sold the codex to the antiquities dealer. Without telling the hospital authorities and Dr. Stanton her suspicions, or even of the existence of the codex, she continues to ask for the exact location of the ruins where the ancient book was found.

Too soon, the disease takes the life of Volcy, the Guatemalan the hospital had admitted as John Doe. Chillingly, there are soon other cases discovered, and the hospital researchers discover that this prion disease, similar to mad cow disease which is spread by ingesting infected meat, is not spread by food at all but is airborne and enters the body through the eyes.

The disease spreads like wildfire through LA and is unwittingly carried to other US cities by travelers before a quarantine is mandated by the CDC. Dr. Stanton and his team are scrambling to find a way to counteract the fast moving disease and to prevent it's further spread. Chaos reigns in LA, as the disease moves faster that the bureaucracy's efforts to slow it down. Chel continues to translate the codex, discovering some startling secrets about the ancient Mayans, secrets which may hold the answers that Dr. Stanton and his team are trying to find. When the expert on the ancient text and the lead researcher on prion diseases join forces, they just may be able to save the world.

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