Resistant: A Novel

Resistant: A Novel

by Rachael Sparks


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A thrilling debut in the style of Crichton or A.G. Riddle, Resistant imagines a chilling—and entirely plausible—future where antibiotics don't work, and weaves adventure, romance, and science into a thrilling chase for a cure.

In the final battle with drug-resistant bacteria, one woman's blood holds a secret weapon.
Rory and her father have survived the antibiotic crisis that has killed millions, including Rory’s mother—but ingenuity and perseverance aren’t their only advantages. When a stoic and scarred young military veteran enters their quiet life, Rory is drawn to him against her better judgment . . . until he exposes the secrets her mother and father kept from her, including the fact that her own blood may hold the cure the world needs, and she is the target of groups fighting to reach it first.
When the government comes after Rory, aiming to use her for a cure it can sell to the highest bidder, she’s forced to flee with her father and their new protector. But can she find the new path of human evolution before the government finds her?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943006731
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 767,774
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Rachael Sparks was born in Waco, Texas. She graduated with a degree in microbiology from Texas A&M University and her first college job was ghostwriting a nonfiction science book. After a decade-long career in Austin, Texas, as a transplant specialist, she joined a startup fighting healthcare acquired infections. After relocating with her husband, young daughter, and mother to Asheville, North Carolina, she finally put her first novel onto the page. In her free time she serves on the board of the Asheville Museum of Science and loves to cook, brew, garden, and spend time with friends and family in between obsessively researching new science concepts, history, or new recipes.

Read an Excerpt


Stevigson Farm, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, November 2041

The thermometer on the window read ninety degrees Fahrenheit, enough for Rory to suspect that the typical afternoon power outage would arrive soon. Outside, the leaves on the trees were barely turning yellow at the edges, hinting at the start of a fall that wouldn't get crisp for weeks yet. At this temperature, her research thesis would have to take an extended hiatus. Their solar panels were broken, and rolling brownouts were a common occurrence. She wanted a break anyway. Evenings felt cooler if you hadn't been inside all day.

She saved her work with a quick tap on the hologram screen and then tapped it again to close. The projected screen and keyboard disappeared, leaving only its small flat bar. It was an outdated holo-laptop, but it worked well after she had traded computer repairs for a bushel of potatoes with a traveling electrical engineer who was passing through Woods Hole.

Yanking on boots, she headed downstairs to the back porch and out toward the orchard. Its apple trees, fruit weighting the limbs and near harvest, filled almost an acre of their farm and were a good source of income. But the apples were also a great deal of work to haul in, and that was before the labor required to make chips, jam, and cider to sell locally. Rory had always found their spindly, droopy branches rather creepy, but she admired their durability in the face of several shockingly hot winters and a few freak blizzards. She found her father past the orchard in the back acre, where rows of wheat were also days from being ready to harvest. The crop would yield just enough for a few bags of flour. It was getting so expensive to buy now that the Midwest had reverted to dust-bowl status. He was proud of this first year's crop, but she wasn't keen on learning how the thresher worked.

"Aurora Rosalind. Goddess of the dawn and the harvest!" her father shouted in a mock blueblood Boston accent.

"Lord Byron, fair rogue," she called back with a deep, mocking bow. "I thought I'd check on you before I go check the crab traps." She reached him where he was pulling weeds from the row edges.

Her father was a tall, lanky man with a crop of sandy blond hair growing coarse with age. Dressed in his standard hat, overalls, boots, and T-shirt, he looked far more like a farmer than a doctor of science in climatology and the author of two published books. Three more books still languished on the holo-laptop for the time when the world cared again about reversing climate change. Too late to reverse, he liked to say. The earth already reversed on us. We just need to stay ahead of its inhabitants now. Of course, after the die-off, all her father really meant was the microscopic inhabitants. Even one of their own tiny family had fallen victim to bacterial resistance to medicines. Rory's mother was three years gone, but the pain still woke her with nightmares.

"Crab for supper again? Catch me a lobster for once, will you?" "Get your boat working again, and I will," she retorted.

"I'm a meteorologist with a pitchfork. You're the smart one."

"I'm a microbiology student with a crab trap." She squinted at him, but secretly she loved these games. Since they'd lost her mother, these teasing moments revived her in their memories.

"You're a doctoral candidate with a master's in bioengineering and a minor in biochemistry. Make it run on potato peels," he said. She was already heading away toward the docks.

"I'll get a real doctorate just about the year that a seventies-era marine engine can be converted to biofuel."

"Got your knife and Mace?" he called after her with a father's worry. Rory waved a hand up that gripped her knife without turning around, and then she hooked it onto the back of her belt.

Byron watched his daughter walk away, now at twenty-three as tall as her mother and just as lean as he. Her hair was darker, wavy, its length bouncing against her back as she walked. He could still see the toddler version of her, walking hand in hand with her mother, always curious, forever trying to pocket or eat whatever she found. She still had the curiosity, the resilience she'd shown then, traits her mother, Persephone, had passed on to her. More than she realized.

The die-off had left them with little more than their wits and the land they owned, but Byron knew how valuable their wits really were. With the population cut by almost 15 percent by the time Rory was seven, and no antibiotics developed yet to combat the resistance of every common bacterial enemy of humans to the antibiotic medicines available, survival skills seemed as valuable as job skills. They still had minimal infrastructure — even electricity and internet most days — but nobody needed a climatologist to tell them that Woods Hole, Massachusetts, was exhibiting the weather he had grown up around in his Raleigh, North Carolina, childhood. They had made a decision, as a family, to turn this family vacation spot into a real farm. It had felt less like a sacrifice than a strategy. Then Persephone had left them, a victim of the very bacteria she had long struggled to develop medicines against. Right now, he couldn't tell if they were winning. But he suspected that the long game rarely felt that way.


US Army Task Force for Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Research (TEAR) Laboratory, Bethesda, Maryland

The team of eight researchers around the massive conference table worked on their laptops in impatience, reviewing their presentation. Their coffee was ice-cold by the time their audience of three finally arrived. Everyone was on their feet, as if they'd instantly been drafted and suddenly knew how to salute.

"General Kessler," the lead scientist greeted the tall, barrel-chested general with black eyes and a close crop of pepper hair.

"Dr. Rajni," he said with a brief handshake and a glance over the other seven scientists. General Bill Kessler didn't like doctors. He needed them, but he didn't trust or like them.

Rajni couldn't remember the other men in uniform but nodded respectfully and said, "Officers, please sit."

"Yes. Let's make this efficient. Tell me when we'll have antibody stock."

Silence filled the room like smoke, and Rajni glanced back at his team to encourage them to begin the presentation. From the center of the round table, the holo-projector sent a column of soft light up through the center of the room, and an image of a 3-D, multiheaded, multicolored blob appeared to float in the center. It stuttered, disappearing for a few moments while the scientists frantically tried to restore it.

"I miss the days of projectors and flat screens," Kessler sighed. "Hologram laptops, hologram projectors — why can't we just fucking project onto a wall or use a damned screen instead of dust mites?"

The holograms suddenly reappeared, now sharp and visible as their light sources illuminated particles in the air and earned an unimpressed huff from Kessler.

Clearing his throat, Rajni — looking a decade older than his forty-five years — pointed to the blob as it began to animate, moving in space toward an oblong, elliptical body that appeared in the animation. He pointed to the elliptical shape.

"That is a bacterium with the pan-resistant antibiotic resistance genes, able to resist all our existing antibiotics. This, to the side, is an antibody from within a healthy, immune-competent individual who was able to survive infection by a pan-resistant bacteria." As he further narrated, the antibody latched onto the bacterium, and another larger cell body soon appeared, matching up to exposed sites on the antibody, then quickly engulfing the whole combination. "In a normal, healthy person with the ability to survive —"

"Dr. Ranji, we've seen this all before," interrupted Kessler. "We know how survivors' immune systems work, how the mac ... macrama ..." He waved a meaty hand.

"Macrophages?" the doctor supplied.

"Yes. Macrophage immune cells from our bodies eat the bacteria after the antibodies latch on. I need to know what you've engineered for the rest of us who are lucky to have survived this long without being exposed. What's next." It was an order, not a question.

Ranji looked over at his team and nodded, and they nodded back. Now the animation showed a differently colored antibody attaching to the bacteria. Nothing more happened.

"Despite numerous promising approaches, the antibodies either directly from donors or from mouse and synthetic models were successful at receptor binding sites either in vitro or in vivo, but phagocytic cell response is lacking or insufficient to reduce the burden of pan-resistant-gene-positive cells enough to allow survival. The donor models seem to be the only models where receptor binding is successful in triggering the full immune cascade that will allow for defeat of a pan-resistant bacterial infection."

"You mean ... it doesn't work?" Kessler squinted angrily.

Rajni nodded. "I mean that the antibody latches on, but the macrophages don't finish the kill. Put simply, for whatever reason, the bacteria infecting the victim do not die. Instead, the victim dies. Dr. Simon can provide more detail on the reasons we suspect for failure."

A young black woman stood up and wrung her hands as she spoke. "We've examined the receptor binding in the donor survivor blood and haven't yet been able to identify the unique parameters that create a positive-binding and subsequent immune cascade environment. It's not simply the antibody alone. Some other unknown factor seems to be at play."

"Maybe the antibodies are not binding fully?" suggested one of the officers, who had a bachelor's degree in biology.

"We've ruled that out as a possibility. Binding is successful and abundant."

"Are they on some sort of ... I don't know, special diet? Vitamins?" Kessler barked.

Dr. Simon shook her head. "We've controlled for such factors. There are no special reasons that we can identify why the donors work and the others don't."

Kessler practically growled in frustration before a fist came smashing down on the table. "There are hardly any donors left! It's been almost four years and seventy million dollars — you've probably bled them dry already! How in the holy fuck have you all screwed this up so badly?" He surged to his feet. "You're supposed to be the best goddamned researchers in the world!"

Dr. Simon visibly trembled, but Rajni was cool and composed.

"The best goddamned researchers in the world," he said, his mild Pakistani accent the only thing to betray his discomfort, "are mostly dead. We're what you have left, and we are just as upset at our lack of progress."

"Well, who the fuck is going to figure this out? The world is waiting to attack us, and we've got half the military defenses we had fifteen years ago. Who do I need to hire?" Kessler bellowed.

Rajni shrugged. "There is no one. I think only my mentor could have solved this."

"Who? Where is he?"

"She. Dr. Persephone Tyler-Stevigson. She's dead. She died over two years ago when we were beginning to make progress." He looked down, overcome for a moment with regret as he recalled their last words.

"She's dead." Kessler visibly regained control over his temper, glancing at his o?cers. "That's terrible. I'm sorry. Did she die here?"

Rajni was silent.

Dr. Simon spoke up. "No. She had decided to go back to her family farm and take care of her husband and daughter." She paled when Rajni sent her a quelling glare.

"Ah. One of those survivalist types," Kessler replied smugly. "Not in the Midwest, I hope."

"She was from Woods Hole, Massachusetts," Rajni said quietly. "She cannot help us now. We must keep working and hopefully try to discover more donors who haven't self-reported their infection survival."

One of the officers leaned across the table. "We've given you every donor we have. We've scoured the nation. Do you think they're in hiding or otherwise avoiding detection?"

A young doctor from the group cleared his throat, and the officer's instant glare in his direction caused a nervous pause before he explained, "Probably, though not intentionally. Our data are just too fractured with lack of complete reporting. So many hospitals and medical examiners have closed, and their mortality data weren't reported to the CDC. We lack a nationalized database of survivors — that is, survivors who actually contracted a resistant infection and managed to recover. If such a database existed, well ..."

Dr. Rajni completed his thought. "We wouldn't be needing to meet."


"General Kessler, we've discussed this before. We really lack the epidemiological data to reveal the most vulnerable populations. It seemed intuitive when the elderly were the most commonly infected, but then the bacteria transferred the antibiotic resistance so successfully across species that there was no most-likely-to-be-infected type of patient; everyone seemed equally at risk. We need to know what is in common amongst survivors, and our current pool of donors is not revealing any clues. We can't take the handle off the pump."

"What?" Kessler snarled again. "What pump?"

Rajni shook his head sadly. "Sorry. It's an old epidemiology term. Dr. John Snow, the father of epidemiology, famously ended a cholera outbreak in London by removing the handle from the water pump that he suspected was the source of the outbreak. It ended the cholera epidemic." He sighed. "But we have no such easy answer."

A silent miasma of tension, sadness, and frustration filled the room. Kessler nodded with finality: the meeting was ended.

"Keep working. We'll find more donors."

All the scientists glanced at each other uncertainly, not understanding that they were dismissed. Rajni gave them a toss of his head toward the door and they all filed out, Rajni closing the door behind him. The bacteria animation hung frozen in air over the center of the table before the military men.

Kessler took a deep breath. "I want eyes on the farm of that dead doctor — Staig-whatever?"

"Persephone Tyler-Stevigson," his officer read from notes on the table.

"Right. Eyes on the farm immediately. Maybe the family knows something. Maybe she kept working."

"Eyes on the farm. Yes, sir."

Hibernia Wind and Energy Farm

In the control room, a young man with a patchy beard sat before a computer and pointed to the screen.

"So the database she's been working on, for her thesis. It's really surging. This idea of hers for a crowdsourced reporting portal, it was nothing short of brilliant. From what I can tell, even kids are getting involved as, like, miniature science projects. Within a couple months, maybe less at this pace ... it could yield some interesting insights."

His small audience of one woman and two men nodded in agreement but didn't comment.

"How much attention is it getting otherwise?" one asked.

He looked to the woman who posed the question and tried to read her flat, controlled expression.

"Well ... I only monitor traffic, not IP sources. I could run a —"

One of the men interrupted him. "Run it. Cross-check against all concerned parties. Tighten surveillance. And get eyes on the ground in Woods Hole. Now."


Stevigson Farm, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

A massacre of crabs, potatoes, and corn lay out across the porch table, a few shrimp shells in the mix, between Rory and Byron. Byron had opened beers for them — another handy skill he'd taught himself upon arrival at the farm — while they watched the sunset over the wheat fields.

"Did I tell you that new registrants at the database jumped fifty percent last month?"

Byron looked over in shock. "Really? From all over or just one pocket?"

"All over," Rory nodded. "I'm up to twenty-seven hundred nationwide. I might be able to report something preliminary soon for the thesis."

"Wow. That's worthy of a cheers!" he grinned, clinking his bottle to hers. "Oh, I almost forgot something special I got you. I traded with Kathleen Stewart, who dropped by while you were out getting the crabs." Leaning back to the satchel he carried on the farm, he produced two bright orange, kidney-shaped items not much bigger than crab apples.

"Mangoes?" Rory breathed out disbelievingly. "Dad, that's amazing. I miss mangoes so much."

"Well, save the seeds. We'll put them in some compost and start a grove. Who knows — they're probably in the right climate now!" he chuckled.

She kissed his cheek and sat back to admire the fruit as if it were a gold-and-diamond necklace. "Some people have a hard time keeping such a positive outlook, you know. On my site, in the forums, I had to add an FAQ about why we don't count loss due to suicide."

Byron sent her a sidelong glance but let her finish without clarifying.


Excerpted from "Resistant"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Rachael Sparks.
Excerpted by permission of BookSparks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Resistant: A Novel 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
saberle More than 1 year ago
This highly entertaining post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller has all the ingredients needed. Set mostly in the New England area of the United States, Resistant illustrates what happens when anti-biotic resistant infections become the norm. While the science is interesting, the story is what grabs the reader by the throat. It moves from place to place and numerous characters have intriguing stories to tell. Resistant is a very good thriller that is scary because it is believable.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Resistant by Rachael Sparks is a so-so dystopian novel. In Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Rory Stevigson and her father, Byron, are basically off-the-grid survivalists in the climate changed land of 2041. The prevalence of bacterial diseases that were sparked by climate change have all become drug-resistant after the over use of antibiotics. Rory's deceased mother was a scientist looking for a cure until she succumb to a bacterial infection. At the same time, the people her mother used to work for are still looking for a cure and using whatever unethical methods they choose. When a young veteran, Navy, shows up and begins to work for them, Rory finds herself attracted to him. Soon it becomes apparent that he is more than just a hired hand. Rory herself may hold the cure to the health crisis, and now she and her father need to flee, with help from Navy and his friend. They are headed to the headquarters of the resistance and hope to spread a cure to the world. The journey, that in any heroic adventure novel needs to have the protagonists facing almost insurmountable struggles to get to the desired place, went by with a few obstacles, but nothing that wasn't easily handled. Scenes that had plenty of heart-stopping potential were breezed through. Portions of the journey were just skipped over. I really stopped and went back to see if I had somehow skipped a few chapters, but no. Rory and Navy went from, let's say point B right to V, at which point I was bitterly disappointed in this mitigated action. Come on - give me a struggle, give me a quest, give me onerous striving toward the climax. The plot is interesting, but the journey, pursuit, and adventure are attenuated and simplified. Rory is a likeable heroine. It was refreshing that she could state her own opinions and stand up to the men around her. She is smart, but, alas, she is also immature. I found it hard to believe she was a 23 year old in this situation, as she seemed too sheltered and naive about the world in which she is living. I also think the almost immediate romance angle should have been dialed back, a lot, and given more time to develop. The bad guys are bad, but come across as caricatures of bad guys. The writing is decent but the actual novel and plot would have benefited from more descriptions, more action, more depth to the plot. This really reads like a YA novel, although it is described as a new adult novel. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of SparkPress.
TeresaReviews More than 1 year ago
Thank you to NetGalley, SparkPress, and Rachael Sparks for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. Initially, when this popped up on my dashboard on NetGalley, I think I thought it was a young adult novel, mostly because of the cover. It has that vibe. But the listed genres are romance and sci-fi. But having thought it was YA based on the novel, I was very confused about the characters at first...until I realized oh, this is more of a new adult book. Okay, got it! That definitely changes things! This aside, there is romance, yes. Pretty much instantly, and this actually makes the relationships and the characters feelings and actions toward each other feel very flat and unrealistic. There wasn't much build-up or development before the characters get together (there are a few relationships going on in this novel). While I love romance, this was just too unrealistic for me. On another note, I love disease-related fiction. Some disease destroyed the population (Maze Runner, The Walking Dead, Delirium, Day 5 [Rooster Teeth TV Series]). Love that kind of dystopian/post-apocalyptic idea. BUT, 30% of the way through the novel and I still didn't quite get what exactly happened to the world. The science in the novel could be explained better as well as more interspersed. Holistically, I think that this would be a better novel if it was further expanded. It's short enough that another 10k words definitely wouldn't hinder it. The relationship development between Rory/Navy and Army/AJ could be vastly improved, because by the end of the novel, I still felt nothing for either relationship because the development just wasn't present. I also found that the plot could be further developed as well, spending just a few more sentences on elaborating a scientific aspect, or making a scene a bit more vivid. It felt like the characters jumped from place to play, and just a bit more description from one place to another would be helpful, despite the fact that each new chapter/page break starts with a location name. Overall I did like this book and found it easy to read. But once again, I wish there was a bit more depth to it, especially because it is for a new adult audience. New adult age can handle descriptions and science and more ante to spice up the romance!