'Altered State' novel compelling

Published: Saturday, Dec. 5 2009 12:18 a.m. MST

"Altered State," by Gregg Luke, 2009, Covenant

Communications, 272 pages, $15.95

"Saturday, September 5 ... today it seemed different.

Although everything looked the same, the area now felt as menacing as a steel

trap poised to spring with bone crushing force. He shook his head at the silly

premonition and headed under the tree anyway."

This is where Peter Stokes comes to relax and read his


Today the magpies are louder and more obnoxious than usual,

and Peter is trying to ignore the whole lot of them. After reading for a while,

Peter feels like he wakes up from a light doze to find his Book of Mormon torn

in half and no memory of how it happened.

"Altered State" takes place at Utah State

University in Logan, Utah. The details of the campus layout are accurate, and

author Gregg Luke brings the setting to life.

Homer Winegar is a number analyst at Wasatch BioChemical. On

Monday, Sept. 21, he is busy paying the bills and isn't happy, trying to make

the money stretch. While Homer wishes he could go back to his old job, son

Zachary listens to music.

Zachary has Asperger's syndrome and is extremely talented

with music. He is able to pick out beat, time, key and the underlying rhythm and

instruments. He knows composers and titles and is able to tell who the

conductor is. Zachary is all about music.

While life goes on in Logan, something unethical and highly

illegal is going on at Scandia Labs. It is all very cryptic and only two

individuals know what is going on in "a small town up north." Life in

Logan is about to get off the road and take a turn for the worse.

While at school in early October, Zachary is fascinated by a

song he hears on the radio. He calls it the "Whisper Song." Shortly

thereafter, students on campus start gathering around different statues on

campus. They become non-responsive to those around them and don't react in any

way to outside stimulus.

Morgan Winegar teaches psychology at USU and wants to get to

the bottom of what is causing so many students to act out of character. As

winter approaches, the number of students involved with each gathering

multiplies and acts of violence increase. The episodes are becoming stranger

and more disturbing.

As Morgan, Homer and others work together, it is apparent

that something disastrous is about to happen. As they race against the clock,

Morgan has an experience that threatens to blow her world apart. Zachary helps

to find the "Whisper Song," and Homer is faced with a very difficult decision

that should have been made years ago.

I agree with Aaron Jones' quote on the book: "Inescapably

compelling, medically accurate and disturbingly plausible."

I had a hard time putting this book down. The story flies,

and the characters interact well with each other and bring greater depth to the


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