"Impressive Futuristic Debut"
SHIELDER is the critically acclaimed debut
Spangler. It is set in the future in a quadrant dominated
by the evil Controllers whose psionic brainwaves compel
their minions to do their bidding. Yes, there are many
whom greed has led to serve the Controllers. Among them are
the bounty hunters, the Shadowers. Their job is to round
up criminals and dissidents for monetary gain.
Among the hunted are the Shielders, whose only crime is to
possess a genetic resistance to the mind bending of the
Controllers. Their colonies have been forced to the edges
of the quadrant, to the most barren planets and moons.
Supplies are dated and scarce, food is also scarce. The
conditions they must live under has dictated that only the
fit be allowed to survive. Those with defects and
disabilities are outcast or euthenized.
There are others in the quadrant who serve the Controllers
when it suits their purposes. Among those is Dansan, a
brilliant, and avaricious scientist who develops viruses to
destroy those who stand in the way of her profit or those
whose demise will earn her profit.
Dr. Chase McKnight and Nessa dan Ranul are two who have
first hand knowledge of her skills. Though they have little
else in common, it is this that will ultimately cause their
paths to cross.
Chase had been one of the most renowned physicians in the
quadrant, until Dansan reneged on a partnership with his
colony, poisoning the water with her deadly Ramos strain.
Chase alone had been spared, due to the fact that he drank
only bottled water. He had employed all of his abilities to
save his people and had lost the battle. The virus had been
programmed to mutate at regular intervals. He had always
been one step behind with the cure.
Having lost everyone he had loved and his faith in his
ability, Chase had forsaken medicine in favor of revenge.
Using the cover of becoming a Shadower he pursues Dansan
though the universe. To his chagrin he continues to remain
one step behind her.
Nessa too has lost all she loved through no fault of her
own. Because of her seizures and an injury to her leg which
occurred during one, she is an outcast, living on the
fringes of her colony. Nessa is a Shielder. Her life had
been spared due to her brother Jarek's urging, and then
only because of his status as the future Director of the
colony. Shunned by her people, disavowed by her parents,
Nessa's existence is even harsher than that of her
people. Unable to bear it any longer, and with a sincere
wish to be of use to the Shielders, she volunteers for a
highly dangerous mission.
Dansan had given the Controllers the means to exterminate
the Shielders. The Orana virus affects them only. Their
only hope is to have the virus analyzed at a distant
Shielder laboratory in order to create an antidote. Since
the odds of capture is great, the person delivering the
virus must become a living host carrying the virus within
their body. Failure would mean a certain and painful death.
Nessa, posing as a religious pilgrim, is to be that host.
Unfortunately luck is still not with Nessa. Her antiquated
ship breaks down two days out into space. She is rescued by
Chase, who though disgruntled at having his mission
interrupted, maintains the goodness of heart that doesn't
allow him to abandon her.
Before long he is intrigued by her innocence, and his
compassion for her physical weaknesses slowly draws out the
physician in him. He makes a promise to deliver Nessa to
her destination. In his own good time of course! Though
feelings between the two blossom though mutual admiration
and affection. Chase is still consumed with hatred for
Dansan. Nessa's quest is disrupted time and again while he
follows false leads. Complicating matters is the fact that
Chase's partner, and fellow Shadower, is a Shielder
Unbeknownst to Chase, time is running out for Nessa. While
she trusts her heart to him, she cannot trust the fate of
her people to a Shadower. Confiding in him would reveal
her identity and he would have no choice but to turn her in
to the Controllers. Can true love override the Controller
mind indoctrination? Can Chase put aside his hatred and
become the man he was born to be? Will Nessa be successful
and finally win the love of her people?
This is a thoroughly enjoyable journey for the reader, as
the love story slowly unfolds and each realizes their
personal strengths mirrored through the eyes of their
beloved. I was extremely impressed with the depth of the
story. Though some might believe it took great courage for
Nessa to carry a deadly virus within her body, she really
had little to lose. Her true courage lies in her ability to
survive prejudice and make her life meaningful. The story
sends the message that we are all deserving of love in
spite of our flaws. Chase too exhibits true courage in his
attempt to conquer his paralyzing fear of failure.
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted August 20, 2001