Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.
When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.
As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?
To have written Pale Highway, Nicholas Conley either really IS a unique alien creature or I want some of what he puts in his coffee!
He writes with near heart-breaking compassion about Gabriel, who is a Nobel Prize winning scientist, who has developed Alzheimer's. Gabriel is 70-something, he not exactly sure. How frustrating it must be for memories to disappear. It's almost like they get misfiled in some huge bureaucratic storage room. They're there, but for all intents and purposes, 'not accessible'.
Things take a really (really!) strange turn, when one of the slugs that hang around the nursing home talks to Gabriel! And yes - I'm talking about those slimy little things that crawl around after the rain and remind me of snails without the shell. Gabriel (not 'Gabe') doesn't know if he's seeing what he thinks he sees, or if his mind has crossed some threshold from whence there is no return. Talking slugs? I'd worry about me too. But Conley handles this part of the story well; it would be too easy to 'overdue' talking gastropod molluscs. And they really do come in a wide variety of colors.
Even they have their 'Higher Power' and eventually Gabriel and his giant slug mount, Michael, escape the confines of the nursing home to go plead humanity's case in front of the Great Sky Amoeba. The opposing party, who have been turning anyone who got the Schist Vaccine (Gabriel's invention that wiped out AIDS) into living Dia de los Muertos figures.
I told you. Pale Highway (which refers to the trail-like reflection made by the moon on the water when you look out at a body of water) is quirky and weird. But that's ok, because so am I.
If you, too, are quirky and weird, or at least can read about the strange and unbelievable without pointing a 'holier-than-thou' finger at the supra-realism of Pale Highway, get it on your shelf ASAP.
MEET THE AUTHOR
When not busy writing, Nicholas is an obsessive reader, a truth seeker, a sarcastic idealist, a traveler, and — like many writers — a coffee addict.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Sage's Blog Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)