The Final Race
Mill City Press
The Final Race is a work of fiction that relies heavily on environmental science, medical knowledge and the volatile racial history of the American culture. Author Oliver Chiapco stitches together a dramatic tale of a global epidemic that pulls back the scabs of racism and human frailty, while providing insight into overlooked aspects of the world’s shared history. It is provocative and stunning, with an unexpected plot twist that will hold readers captive.
The opening scene introduces the reader to Wayne Joseph Tucker V. He finds himself in an emergency room after nearly severing a finger. When he is offered medical assistance, Tucker, a white man and a member of the Klu Klux Klan, refuses to be seen by a nonwhite doctor. This is where the author sets the foundation for the racial tension that slowly becomes the heart of this story. Later, a long and detailed lecture on global warming that stalls the action in the book briefly, becomes a crucial piece of the story as an epidemic of infectious diseases pop up in hospitals in the Northern, Western and Southern regions of the United States. Hundreds, thousands and then millions of people become fatally ill. Chief among the mysterious illnesses is malaria.
As the cases of mosquito-borne diseases spread rapidly through the U.S., Europe, Africa and Asia, Dr. Jamal Jackson focuses on his clinical and laboratory work with sickle cell disease. In the hospital, he guides the care of several young patients who have suffered all of their lives with the active disease. In his lab work, Jamal is on a mission to short circuit sickle cell disease so that he can save future lives from the devastating illness. As a carrier of the sickle cell trait who lost a sibling to the disease, Jamal’s work has filled almost all of the space in his life.
I was initially thrown by the twists and turns Chiapco makes in the beginning of the book: There are many recurring characters, but others make only one appearance. What I discovered as I continued reading is that the characters that make only one appearance provide background information that circles around later; information that is paramount to understanding the solution Jamal offers to the global community when medication becomes scarce and massive loss of life world-wide is imminent. The epidemic and Jamal’s alternative treatment stokes racial tensions and presents a challenge to the ill and those treating them.
This is a unique story that enlightens and inspires the reader to think beyond the small world he or she inhabits. It encourages a rejection of separatist thinking, and acceptance of a unified global community.
The Final Race is extraordinary. I highly recommend it.
Melissa Brown Levine
Independent Professional Book Reviewers