12.21: A Novel

12.21: A Novel

by Dustin Thomason

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679644286
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/07/2012
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 233,601
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Dustin Thomason graduated from Harvard College and received his M.D. from Columbia University. He is the co-author of the international bestseller The Rule of Four, and has written and produced several television series, including Lie to Me. He lives in Venice Beach, California.

Read an Excerpt

ONE

Dr. gabriel stanton’s condo sat at the end of the boardwalk, before the Venice Beach footpath morphed into lush lawns where the tai chi lovers gathered. The modest duplex wasn’t entirely to Stanton’s taste. He would have preferred something with more history. But on this odd stretch of the California coastline, the only options to choose between were run‑down shacks and contemporary stone and glass. Stanton left his home just after seven a.m. on his old Gary Fisher bike and headed south with Dogma, his yellow Labrador, running beside him. Groundwork, the best coffee in L.A., was only six blocks away, and there Jillian would have a triple shot of Black Gold ready for him the minute he walked in.

Dogma loved the mornings as much as his owner did. But the dog wasn’t allowed into Groundwork, so after Stanton tied him up, he made his way inside alone, waved at Jillian, collected his cup, and checked out the scene. A lot of the early clientele were surfers, their wetsuits still dripping. Stanton was usually up by six, but these guys had been up for hours.

Sitting at his usual table was one of the boardwalk’s best‑known and strangest‑looking residents. His entire face and shaved head were covered with intricate designs, as well as rings, studs, and small chains protruding from his earlobes, nose, and lips. Stanton often wondered where a man like Monster came from. What had happened to him in early life that led to the decision to cover his body entirely with art? For some reason, whenever Stanton imagined Monster’s origins, he saw a split‑level home near a military base—­exactly the type of houses in which he himself had spent his childhood.

“How’s the world out there doing?” Stanton asked.

Monster looked up from his computer. He was an obsessive news junkie, and when he wasn’t working at his tattoo shop or entertaining tourists as part of the Venice Beach Freak Show, he was here posting comments on political blogs.

“Other than there being only two weeks before the galactic alignment makes the magnetic poles reverse and we all die?” he asked.

“Other than that.”

“Hell of a nice day out there.”

“How’s your lady?”

“Electrifying, thanks.”

Stanton headed for the door. “If we’re still here, I’ll see you tomorrow, Monster.”

After Stanton downed his Black Gold outside, he and Dogma continued south. A century ago, miles of canals snaked through the streets of Venice, tobacco magnate Abbot Kinney’s re-creation of the famed Italian city. Now virtually all of the waterways where gondoliers once ferried residents were paved over and covered with steroid‑fueled gyms, greasy‑food stands, and novelty T‑shirt shops.

Stanton had ruefully watched a rash of “Mayan apocalypse” graffiti and trinkets pop up all over Venice in recent weeks, vendors taking advantage of all the hype. He’d been raised Catholic but hadn’t been in a church in years. If people wanted to seek their destiny or believe in some ancient clock, they could go right ahead; he’d stick to testable hypotheses and the scientific method.

Fortunately, it seemed not everyone in Venice believed December 21 would bring the end of the world; red and green lights also decorated the boardwalk too, just in case the crackpots had it wrong. Yuletide was a strange time in L.A. Few transplants understood how to celebrate the holidays at seventy degrees, but Stanton loved the contrast—­Santa hats on rollerbladers, suntan lotion in stockings, surfboards festooned with antlers. A ride along the beach on Christmas was as spiritual as he got these days.

Ten minutes later, he and the dog reached the northern tip of Marina del Rey. They made their way past the old lighthouse and the sailboats and souped‑up fishing vessels bobbing quietly in the harbor. Stanton let Dogma off his leash, and the dog bounded ahead while Stanton trotted behind, listening for music. The woman they were here to see surrounded herself with jazz at all times, and when you heard Bill Evans’s piano or Miles’s trumpet over the other noises of the waterfront, she wasn’t far. For most of the last decade, Nina Countner had been the woman in Stanton’s life. While there had been a few others in the three years since they’d split, none had been more than a substitute for her.

Stanton trailed Dogma onto the dock of the marina and caught the mournful sound of a saxophone in the distance. The dog had arrived at the tip of the south jetty above Nina’s massive dual‑engine McGray, twenty‑two pristine feet of metal and wood, squeezed into the last slip at the end of the dock.

Nina crouched beside Dogma, already rubbing his belly. “You guys found me.”

“In an actual marina for a change,” said Stanton.

He kissed her on the cheek and breathed her in. Despite spending most of her time at sea, Nina always managed to smell like rose­water. Stanton stepped back to look at her. She had a dimpled chin and striking green eyes, but her nose was a little crooked, and her mouth was small. To Stanton, it was all just right.

“You ever going to let me get you a real slip?” he asked.

Nina gave him a look. He’d offered to rent her a permanent boat slip so many times, hoping it would lure her back to shore more often, but she’d never accepted, and he knew she probably never would. Her freelance magazine assignments hardly provided a steady income, so she’d mastered the art of finding open slips, out‑of‑sight beaches, and off‑the‑radar docks that few others knew about.

“How’s the experiment coming?” Nina asked as Stanton followed her onto the boat. Plan A’s deck was simply appointed, just two folding seats, a collection of loose CDs strewn around the skipper’s chair, and bowls for Dogma’s water and food.

“More results this morning,” he told her. “Should be interesting.”

She took the captain’s seat. “You look tired.”

He wondered if it was the encroaching tide of age she was seeing on his face, crow’s-feet beneath his rimless glasses. But Stanton had slept a full seven hours last night. Rare for him. “I feel fine.”

“The lawsuit’s all over? For good?”

“It’s been over for weeks. Let’s celebrate. Got some champagne in my fridge.”

“Skipper and I are headed to Catalina,” Nina said. She flipped the gauges and switches that Stanton had never bothered to really master, firing up the boat’s GPS and electrical system.

The faint outline of Catalina Island was just visible through the marine layer. “What if I came with you?” he asked.

“While you waited patiently for results from the center? Please, Gabe.”

“Don’t patronize me.”

Nina walked up, cupped his chin in her hand. “I’m not your ex‑wife for nothing.”

The decision had been hers, but Stanton blamed himself, and part of him had never given up on a future for them together. During the three years they were married, his work took him out of the country for months at a time, while she escaped to the ocean, where her heart had always been. He’d let her drift away, and it seemed like she was happiest that way—­sailing solo.

A container ship sounded its horn in the distance, sending Dogma into a frenzy. He barked repeatedly at the noise before proceeding to chase his own tail.

“I’ll bring him back tomorrow night,” Nina said.

“Stay for dinner,” Stanton told her. “I’ll cook whatever you want.”

Nina eyed him. “How will your girlfriend feel about us having dinner?”

“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“What happened to what’s‑her‑name? The mathematician.”

“We went on four dates.”

“And?”

“I had to go see a man about a horse.”

“Come on.”

“Seriously. I had to check out a horse in England they thought might have scrapie, and she told me I wasn’t fully committed to her.”

“Was she right?”

“We went on four dates. So, are we on for dinner tomorrow?”

Nina fired up Plan A’s engine as Stanton hopped onto the dock to collect his bike. “Get a decent bottle of wine,” she called back as she unmoored, leaving him once again in her wake. “Then we’ll see. . . .”

the centers for disease control’s Prion Center in Boyle Heights had been Stanton’s professional home for nearly ten years. When he moved west to become its first director, the center had occupied only one small lab in a mobile trailer at Los Angeles County & USC Medical Center. Now it spanned the entire sixth floor of the LAC & USC main hospital building, the same building that for more than three decades had served as the exterior for the soap opera General Hospital.

Stanton headed through the double doors into what his postdocs often referred to as his “lair.” One of them had strung Christmas lights around the main area, and Stanton flipped them on along with the halogens, casting green and red across the microscope benches stretching across the lab. After dropping his bag in his office, Stanton threw on a mask and gloves and headed for the back. This was the first morning they’d be able to collect results in an experiment his team had been working on for weeks, and he was very eager for them.

The center’s “Animal Room” was nearly the length of a basketball court and contained computerized inventory stalls, touch‑screen data‑ recording centers, and electronic vivisection and autopsy stations. Stanton made his way toward the first of twelve cages shelved on the south wall and peered inside. The cage contained two animals: a two‑foot‑long black‑and‑orange coral snake and a small gray mouse. At first glance it looked like the most natural thing in the world: a snake waiting for the right moment to feed on its prey. But in reality something unnatural was happening inside this cage.

The mouse was nonchalantly poking the snake’s head with its nose. Even when the snake hissed, the mouse continued to nudge it carelessly—­it didn’t run to the corner of the cage or try to escape. The mouse was as unafraid of the snake as it would have been of another mouse. The first time Stanton saw this behavior, he and his team at the Prion Center erupted in cheers. Using genetic engineering, they’d removed a set of tiny proteins called “prions” from the surface membrane of the mouse’s brain cells. They’d succeded in their strange experiment, disrupting the natural order in the mouse’s brain and eradicating its innate fear of the snake. It was a crucial step toward understanding the deadly proteins that had been Stanton’s life’s work.

Prions occur in all normal animal brains, including those of humans, yet after decades of research, neither he nor anyone else understood why they existed. Some of Stanton’s colleagues believed prion proteins were involved in memory or were important in the formation of bone marrow. No one knew for sure.

Most of the time, these prions sat benignly on neuron cells in the brain. But in rare cases, these proteins could become “sick” and multiply. Like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, prion diseases destroyed healthy tissue and replaced it with useless plaques, squeezing out the normal function of the brain. But there was one key, terrifying difference: While Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s were strictly genetic diseases, certain prion diseases could be passed through contaminated meat. In the mid‑1980s, mutated prions from sick cows in England got into the local food supply through tainted beef, and the entire world became familiar with a prion infection. Mad cow disease killed two hundred thousand cattle in Europe and then spread to humans. First patients had difficulty walking and shook uncontrollably, then they lost their memories and the ability to identify friends and family. Brain death soon followed.

Early in his career, Stanton had become one of the world’s experts on mad cow, and when the CDC founded the National Prion Center, he was the natural choice to head it. Back then it had seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime, and he was thrilled to make the move to California; never before had there been a dedicated research center for the study of prions and prion diseases in the United States. With Stanton’s leadership, the center was created to diagnose, study, and eventually fight the most mysterious infectious agents on earth.

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12.21: A Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
From the disease ravaged streets of a quarantined Los Angeles, to the sweltering heat and nearly impenetrable jungles of Guatemala, this book is full of nonstop suspense and action. It is a real page turner. The threat of a civilization ending disease is coupled with the ancient Mayan doomsday calender ticking down to 12/21/12. Many believe it is a date upon which the world as we know it will cease to exist. Dr. Gabriel Stanton and his staff try to find a cure for a mysterious brain disease that is rapidly spreading throughout Los Angeles. Dr Chel Manu, an expert on Mayan language and customs, risks her career by receiving and attempting to translate a rare Mayan codex smuggled into the U. S., which incidentally, might reveal clues for a cure for the deadly disease. As the source of both the disease and the codex converge in Guatemala, Stanton and Manu must decide together if there is any chance of finding a cure in the remote Mayan jungle. This book was provided for review by the well read folks of the Random House Publishing Group.
simple344 More than 1 year ago
There are only few books with a great storyline. This was one of them. A great summer read.
Caseylondon More than 1 year ago
Prions, the CDC, a stolen Mayan codex, a race to stop an epidemic and the approaching date of 12/21/12 make for a heart-pounding novel and a fun summertime read. A cross between a Robin Cook/Michael Crichton medical/biological thriller and a Clive Cussler/James Rollins action/adventure novel, it combines the best of both in an intelligently written book that takes the reader on a journey from the lab to the museum to the jungle. From the land of the ancient Maya to present day Los Angeles there is little chance for boredom and a great chance that the reader will spend time worrying about the truth behind this original story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book kept my interest the whole time a great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good in details
justicefortibet on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Much has been written about the fast approaching 12/21/12 end of the Mayan calendar but 12.21: A Novel is truly a stand out. Dustin Thomason has managed to give an in depth education in Mayan history and culture, the medical world of microscopic Prions and the processes of our government and the Center for Disease Control - all wrapped up in a captivating story line.Dr. Gabe Stanton has worked for years on the obscure world of Prions and their affect on the human brain. Chel Manu is a transplanted Mayan who grew up in Los Angeles and is a world renowned specialist in Mayan epigraphy. When a seemingly unstoppable disease bursts on the scene they are drawn together to find a way to save mankind from what seems to be the fruition of the prophecy of the End of The World promised by the Mayan calendar.The characters really come to life in this fast paced tale of life, death, belief and the will to survive.
Bumpersmom on LibraryThing 7 months ago
What a read, recommend to anyone who wants something different thatis not the same old thing. It's fresh and while it bears some similarity to The DaVinci code, but only that it centers around an ancient artifact. There is much in the news about 12/21/2012 and what an ancient prophecy says, this explains that the date means only that great changes will come about on that date. The author's focus is upon current events leading up to that date in the Los Angeles area. Starting with a mysterious lethal illness that becomes an epidemic, the search for the source of the illness, it's cure and how it could possibly be related to the ancient relic. Don't miss a chance to read this one, for a novice author, he has written a winner.
ltcl on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I received this as an advance copy. The book is due to be published in August. Reading thrillers like 12 21 can keep you up at night. It isn't the heart pounding adventure or the characters miss with near death experiences but the simple fact that this type of thriller could happen. The realization that a horrific virus is just out there in some ancient ruin waiting to be unleashed upon the world makes my skin crawl. In the same vein as Steve Berry, James Rollins and other super thrillers, 12 21 involves good people and bad involved in a medical crisis that they are powerless to control without knowing where the disease came from and finding or understanding an ancient relic so they can save the world. It all goes back to the Mayan calendar that predicts the end of the world on 12 21 12 and a Mayan relic that finds its way to a researcher at the Getty Museum and a deadly virus that starts claiming lives in Los Angeles. Prions are tiny proteins that are responsible for deadly outbreaks like Mad Cow Disease and this is what pulls in specialist Gabe Stanton to the new outbreak in Los Angeles. Can they control the disease, find an antidote and save the world? You will not want to put this one down before finishing the last page breathless and more than a bit worried what might happen this coming end of the year.
bella55075 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I won this book through a librarthing giveaway.Good book with a good plot line. This was a different kind of read that I usually read. I liked it. The book forms around the Mayan prophecy that the world will end on 12/21/12. If show's both the scientific and the mystical sides of the Mayan people. I loved that this book had the action to keep it fast paced yet it didn't take over the book. I look forward to more from Dustin Thomason.
cathyskye on LibraryThing 7 months ago
First Line: He stands silently in the moonlight against the wall of the temple, the small bundle held tightly under his arm.For those who love to spread doom and gloom, the date December 21, 2012, has long been a touchstone because they insist that it is the date when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end.Two weeks before "Doom Day" it's business as usual for Dr. Gabriel Stanton, who heads off to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the Center for Disease Control. The first phone call Stanton gets is from a hospital resident who insists she has a patient he has to see. At roughly the same time Chel Manu, a researcher at the Getty Museum, has an unwelcome visit from a known dealer in black market antiquities. The man thrusts a duffel bag into her hands and disappears.By the end of the day Stanton, the foremost expert on rare infectious diseases, is dealing with a patient whose symptoms terrify him, and Manu, one of the best and brightest in the field of Maya studies, has in her possession a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors. This record, written in secret and hidden by a royal scribe, may very well hold the answer to one of history's great mysteries: why the Maya kingdoms vanished overnight. When Manu is called to interpret for Stanton's patient, it suddenly seems very real that our own civilization may suffer the same fate... and the clock is ticking inexorably toward December 21.Thomason has written a fast-paced story based on enough truth to make you worry. The first part of the book quickly sets the stage and describes prion diseases (think mad cow disease and fatal familial insomnia among others) in such a way that will make you wonder if any food or product that enters your mouth is safe. I've done reading elsewhere that proves we'd be right to be concerned, but this is a book review, not a soapbox. The two main characters, Gabe Stanton and Chel Manu, are also introduced as being completely focused on their jobs yet willing to listen to opposing viewpoints and to make unpopular decisions.Although I enjoyed both characters, my favorite parts of the book concerned the translation of the codex and the glimpse it gave into the ancient Maya civilization, as well as the depiction of life in Los Angeles as the entire metropolitan area is placed under strict quarantine.There's a subplot or two that seem unnecessary, such as the one with the militant group that wants to steal the codex and head for the Guatemalan jungle to find the lost city, but they barely put me off my stride. If you enjoy Michael Crichton-like tales of doomsday disease wrapped up in Maya history and legend, you're going to like this book as much as I did.
MmeRose on LibraryThing 7 months ago
A book very reminiscent of Michael Crichton's work, a thriller with large dollops of history and medical investigation. An excellent page turner taking the reader from a quarantined LA to the jungles of Guatemala in a race against the calendar and a -so far - fatal disease.
nbmars on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This thriller begins ten days before the purported apocalypse of 12/21/2012 predicted by interpretations of the Ancient Mayan calendar.Gabriel (¿Gabe¿) Stanton, is the director of a center in L.A. for research on prions - proteins in the brain responsible for some rare and currently incurable diseases, including Mad Cow Disease and Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI). He gets an urgent call from Michaela Thane, a resident at East L.A. Presbyterian Hospital. She believes she is seeing a case of FFI, which causes total insomnia, leading to hallucinations, panic, and seizures. Nearly all of the afflicted die after a few weeks. Thane's patient doesn¿t speak English however, and when someone finally guesses he may be speaking Qu¿iche, a branch of the Mayan language spoken by many Guatemalans, Stanton and Thane call upon Chel Manu, a local language expert, to help them translate.Dr. Manu, curator of Maya antiguities for the Getty Museum, specializes in epigraphy, the study and interpretation of ancient inscriptions. Coincidentally with being summoned by Stanton, she has come into an incredibly valuable ancient Mayan codex, or written history, which was painted in glyphs (hieroglyphic-like symbols) by a royal scribe of a king. Chel discovers that the patient, Volcy, is the one who found the codex, and he sold it to the collector who gave it to Chel for safekeeping. Volcy dies before he can tell them where he got the book, which is presumably where he contracted this virulently lethal disease. It is imperative for Chel to translate the codex as soon as possible, in the hope that she can figure out where it came from. Stanton needs to get to the source of the infection in order to figure out a cure, because somehow the FFI is spreading, at a rate suggesting that the rumored apocalypse could actually be happening.As Chel translates, she learns about the fascinating world of Paktul, the scribe of the codex; what happened to cause the collapse of his city; and the reason that Volcy would get sick and die almost 1100 years after Paktul himself succumbed.Discussion: Some aspects of the story were not plausible to me, such as Chel¿s speed at translating broken fragments of a document that was moreover written in ancient glyphs no longer readily understandable. It also appeared that everyone was quite susceptible to the disease except the characters the author needed to keep around.The persona of Victor, Chel's mentor, seemed a bit inconsistent to me, and the villain was a little too cardboardy. As for the two main protagonists, I really never felt like I ¿knew¿ either Gabe or Chel. But I found the medical part and the explication of Mayan culture quite interesting, and I enjoyed the sections of the book that told Paktul¿s story. Evaluation: I had a mixed reaction to this book. Much of it moved along at a ¿thriller¿ pace, but I considered some aspects to be better written than others. The ending also disappointed me; in addition to an abrupt denouement, the theme of coincidence or fate, so prevalent throughout most of the book, just sort of got dropped.Nevertheless, it is an entertaining book, and certainly recommended for those with an interest in the prophecies about a possible apocalypse on 12/21/2012.
JechtShot on LibraryThing 7 months ago
The end of the Mayan long count calendar is slated to end on December 21st, 2012. Many speculate that this will be the end of the world, most will view it as just another day. Dustin Thomason paints a somewhat believable 12-21 scenario in which a Doctor from the CDC and an expert in Mayan history are paired together in a battle against time to find the source of a deadly virus. The virus is theorized to have originated in an ancient Mayan tomb and the secrets are buried in a Mayan codex that few have the smarts to decode. Will they find the tomb and potentially a cure in time or will 12-21 truly mark the end of civilization as we know it? Dustin Thomason has delivered a well written solid medical-Mayan thriller. Recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not just another end of the world story although there are some elements. The descriptions of modern day Mayan descendents' life provided some insight into a little known culture.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good storyline which is believable, good character development, and some intrigue and mystery. The slow reveal of the answer to their puzzle was good; it kept me wondering how it was going to be solved. It was much in the same style as "The Rule of Four" which I found to be a great book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Rule of Four was a beautifully written thriller, so I was eager to read the first new book by one of these young authors. Well, we now know which one is the gifted writer. Not only is the writing in 12.21 pedestrian, the plot is completely silly. The nuanced characters of the first novel are nowhere to be found here. Finally, the discussion of prion disorders is completely inaccurate. Literary license is one thing, but the lack of accuracy here is unacceptable, particularly from a writer who is also a physician. Dr. Thomason, you should have consulted with a neurologist! Anyone know when we can expect a book from Ian Caldwell?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago