From the Publisher
“A wonderfully frightening and insightful tale.” Ray Bradbury
“Braver's books will thrill you, scare you, and compel you to read to the very last sentence. With Tunnel Vision he does it all again. One of the best thriller writers in America today!” Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author
“A tantalizing premise, stylish prose, sharply etched characters, and tension that ratchets up degree by degree.” Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author
“Fascinating and scary, Tunnel Vision goes one step beyond, between life and death.” David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author
“Braver gives readers plenty to think about in his engaging new book.” Booklist
“One of the Best Books of the Summer” WGBH Radio (PBS)
“[An] entertaining medical thriller. . . that shows [Braver is] an adept practitioner of this subgenre.” Publishers Weekly
“A disquieting glimpse at science's efforts to prove there is indeed life after death. . . [A] scary, well-crafted read.” Kirkus Reviews
Graduate student Zack Kashion, the hero of Braver's entertaining medical thriller, is trying to finish his dissertation at Northeastern University, but he keeps getting sidetracked by his gambling habit and resulting debts. Then he hits his head in a bad bike accident on a Boston street. On awaking in the hospital from a 12-week coma, atheist Zack finds he has become an object of intense interest by religious fanatics after being secretly filmed muttering in ancient Aramaic, a language he doesn't know. After leaving the hospital, he signs up as a paid volunteer for a private scientific study that's putting subjects into near-death comas and recording their brainwaves for activity in an attempt to prove that there is indeed life after death. To complicate matters, a paid assassin is killing scientists involved in the experiment. A surfeit of religious discussion may put off some readers, but in general Braver (Skin Deep) shows himself an adept practitioner of this subgenre. (June)
Braver (Flashback) returns to his tried-and-true formula—religious zealotry, exotic drugs, and medical experimentation on unwitting patients. Because he recovered from a coma, Zack Kashian is recruited for research on Near Death Experiences even as a hit man is killing off the research team. Braver is going through the motions here, picking up and dropping plots and asking readers to care about a bunch of flat characters. Only for die-hard fans.
From Braver, a novelist unafraid to amp up the creepiness, a disquieting glimpse at science's efforts to prove there is indeed life after death.
Zack Kashian, a grad student with a gambling problem, should have been wearing his helmet when he crashed his bicycle, catching the wheel on a pothole in the darkened street. Weeks later, with his mother by his bedside and Zack's doctors pessimistic that the young man will ever come out of his coma, Zack's future looks like it will be a series of nursing homes coupled with around-the-clock care. Then Zack starts talking, but what he says confounds everyone who hears him; Zack recites the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, the original language used by Jesus. Only problem is, Zack doesn't speak Aramaic, has never studied it and isn't particularly religious. That doesn't matter to the throng hoping for a faith healing that flocks to see him after a video of the incident is posted on YouTube. Frightened, Zack's mother has her son moved to another room and placed under guard to avoid the crowds. One day, without warning, her patience pays off and Zack awakens, shaky and uncertain, but on the road to recovery. Meanwhile, a disturbing number of homeless individuals have been found dead, mostly as a result of suicide. In each case, toxicology reports reveal the presence of a deadly toxin found in the puffer fish. How do these incidents relate to the experiments in which Zack has become involved? Zack soon learns he must trust one of the team members or run the risk of never resolving the greatest sorrow of his young life. Braver, who specializes in fiction that pushes the reader closer and closer to things that go bump in the night, succeeds with a scary, well-crafted read, although at times the story gets lost in rivers of scientific explanation.
An original story that may not be everyone's cup of tea. It's at times a disturbing and difficult read, but the well-paced final segment will please adrenaline junkies.
Read an Excerpt
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, THE PRESENT
“Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”
“You did. Two jacks staring at you from Anthony’s hand, and you draw another. Don’t you believe in counting?” Damian said. “Bro, you take some wild-ass risks.”
“But I won,” Zack said.
“Yeah, on pure luck. ’Least you don’t have to play beer money for a while.”
“More like blood money. Found a clinic that pays thirty bucks a pint.”
“You mean you’re selling your blood?”
“I’m down thirty-six hundred on my Discover card, and they’re threatening court action.”
“Maybe you should stop gambling.”
It was a little after one in the morning, and a mantle of clouds made a hefty underbelly in the Boston sky. Although it was midwinter, the temperature was above freezing, and the streets were free of snow. Zack Kashian was heading to his bike, chained at a light pole near where Damian Santoro had parked his car. They had just left a friend’s apartment where a Texas hold ’em game was still going on. After four hours, Zack had drawn a high-win hand—a full house, queens over jacks—and walked away with a $300-plus pot that put him in the black for the night.
“What about your mother?” Damian said.
“She thinks I’ve got a gambling problem.”
“And she refuses to support it.”
“Except I don’t have a gambling problem. I’ve got a losing problem.”
They crossed Tremont Street to his bike. Zack’s apartment was on Hemenway on the other side of Northeastern University’s campus. Because it was so close, he didn’t bother with his helmet, just a knitted cap. He unchained his bike and rolled it to Damian’s car.
“Whatever, get some sleep,” Damian said.
Zack patted his breast pocket. “And on Anthony. He sold me half his Lunesta.”
“Maybe you do have a gambling problem.”
“I’m not sleeping because I’ve got debts up the grunt, not because I’m gambling.”
“That’s nuts. You’re borrowing to pay down your debt. And now you’re selling your blood. I’m telling you, man, you might want to get off those online games. That stuff’s dangerous.”
Zack put out his hand. “Thank you, Dr. Phil. Or is it Father Damian?”
Damian took it. “You know what you need?”
“No, but you’re going to tell me anyway.”
“You need to consider finding God again.”
“I never found Him to begin with.”
“Then the first time. It doesn’t have to be a church. Just go where you can find enlightenment, some kind of spiritual enrichment.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“You won’t, but I wish you would. I’m visiting a Buddhist temple on Sunday. You’re welcome to come.”
Damian was a devout Christian who went to different churches in Greater Boston each week. Sometimes even non-Christian places of worship. “I’ve got another commitment.”
“Yeah, the God grumblers.”
He meant the Secular Humanist Society Zack belonged to. “We’re not God grumblers, man. We don’t sit around making fun of religions. We’re planning an outing to the Museum of Science for inner-city kids. If there’s a God, He’d approve.” They had met as roommates in their freshman year at Northeastern. Despite the fact that Zack was an unapologetic atheist, they were still fast friends, held together in part by sniping each other’s dogmatism.
“Whatever, you’re too much the rationalist. You need enlightenment.”
“Would Foxwoods qualify?”
“A casino’s the last thing you need.” Damian gave him a hug and drove off as Zack began pedaling home.
Zack had never been to a casino. He preferred home games and the poker Web sites. Perhaps a little too much. Some weeks he’d rack up thirty hours, missing classes and staying up all night, running three and four hands at once. Yes, he made money because he played low-ante games—$25 buy-ins. He’d often win, but it took hours to amass a decent haul. With his face buried in a flash poker site, an easy seduction was an occasional $250 buy-in or a $500 game. And each time he felt the rush that came with laying money on the next card, telling himself that his time was now. But that was the problem: getting into a twilight zone of your own adrenaline, convinced of beating the odds. Unlike at table games, online you can’t read faces. Instead, you’re locked in a cubby with a dark goddess and no good sense. And his debt to friends, bank, and credit card was what he had to show for it. Maybe Damian was right.
You’re a congenital screwup, pal. Twenty-four years old and going on fourteen.
Zack glanced up at the sky, wishing he had a father he could call for advice. He dismissed the thought and turned up Ruggles Street, thinking that tomorrow he’d head to Mass General Hospital’s blood bank, hoping they didn’t screen for poker.
His apartment was only a few blocks away off Huntington Avenue. But a cold drizzle began falling and chilling his face. Another few degrees and the road would be a skim of ice. As he pumped his way onto the avenue, he felt the wad of bills slide up his pocket. With his right hand he pushed down the lump to keep it from working its way out. But doing so left only his other hand to steady the handlebars against an uneven, slick surface.
In a protracted moment, Zack saw the fatal error. His front tire slammed into the jagged edge of a pothole. In the next instant—played out in weird slow motion—the front wheel snapped to the left, sending him flying over the handlebars and coming down dead smack on the top of his head into the base of the crosswalk lights.
In a fraction of a second, Zack was suddenly looking down from someplace above, seeing himself lying crumpled across the curb with his head at the base of the pole and his bike on its side, the front wheel at a crazy angle. In that sliver of awareness, he knew he was viewing things from an impossible perspective. And just as he tried to make sense of it, the moment blinked to total black.
Copyright © 2011 by Gary Braver