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The M.D.

por Thomas M. Disch

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

Séries: Supernatural Minnesota (2)

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
331878,290 (3.59)11
Exploring questions of guilt and responsibility, the second book in Thomas M. Disch's Supernatural Minnesota series, The M.D., is a satisfying mix of dark humor, biting social commentary, and terrifying horror. Given the power to heal or to harm by the Roman god Mercury through a magical staff, the caduceus, young Billy Michaels embarks on a lifelong journey of inflicting good and evil on those who cross his path. Wielding the caduceus, Billy, and later the grown-up, greedy physician William, can only cure in proportion to the amount of suffering he inflicts. From paralyzing his brother and mutilating schoolmates to wreaking a nationwide plague and running for-profit concentration camps for the sick, Michaels's powers spin quickly out of control.… (mais)
  1. 10
    Curfew por Phil Rickman (ehines)
    ehines: Rickman is quite different from Disch--he likes people better, and is more likely to combine horror with light-humorous observation, but in their common ability to make interesting observations about contemporary life and our hunger for meaning within this genre, they are akin.… (mais)
  2. 00
    The Businessman por Thomas M. Disch (SomeGuyInVirginia)
    SomeGuyInVirginia: Part of the Supernatural Minnesota series, and an effective thriller. Not sure why since it's a natural match, but it doesn't come up in LT recommendations.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 8 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
This is in many ways a powerfully written novel of dark humour mixed in with horror. A huge story is packed into 541 pages, covering among other things. inherited genetic disease, climate change (very prescient for something published in 1991), mass plague and tyrannical governmental response, corporate corruption, the tobacco industry, eating disorders, religious fanaticism and racism. All these themes are woven into the narrative with sometimes breathtaking virtuosity and the characters are for the most part strong and individual.

The story begins in the 1970s with six-year-old Billy, who lives with his dad and his dad's second wife, Madge, and her older son Ned, and elderly mother. Billy, who attends a Catholic kindergarten, refuses to accept the assertion by the overbearing nun in charge of his class that Santa Claus is an invented figure based on paganism. We learn that Billy actually sees Santa and converses with him - though before long, Santa is revealed to be another guise of a creature that introduces itself as the god Mercury. I wasn't quite sure if this was just one more persona it took on, although as it is fairly consistent throughout the book, maybe it actually is meant to be the god. Except this version of Mercury is rather malevolent. He transforms a 'poison stick' created by Billy's step-brother Ned from twisted twigs and a sparrow's skeleton, into a caduceus, Mercury's staff and traditional symbol of the medical profession, and imbues it with the ability to charge itself with power. This power can be dispensed for good, for example, to give Billy's family members good health. But there is a catch: to charge the caduceus Billy must dispense curses as well, and the power gained is in proportion to the awful nature of the curses. Being a six-year-old boy, Billy not only dishes out curses to people who have upset him in some way, he also bungles majorly on occasion, for example, condemning his step-brother to endure many years as a 'locked in' patient when Ned inadvertently receives one meant for boys who had beaten up Billy.

The book is divided into a number of parts which skip through the stages of Billy's life from the time of President Nixon's impeachment to an imagined 1999 (the book was published in 1991). The first four sections are an enjoyable page-turning read. In the first, Billy uses his newfound powers with tragic results. In the second, he is still living with his father and family and, undeterred by what he has already done, uses his powers for both good and for evil - with an outcome that although not directly due to his curses can be seen to stem from them when his father is killed in a traffic accident while rushing Billy to hospital after another boy injured him in revenge for what Billy has done.

In the third section, Billy is living with his mother and her second husband, Ben, plus Judith, Ben's daughter by his own first marriage. Judith is bright and engaging but suffers from anorexia. At her instigation, he begins calling himself William. This section focuses on Billy's 13th birthday and his birthday dinner to which an obnoxious spokesman for the tobacco industry, who indirectly funds Ben's work, invites himself, sparking a confrontation where Billy once again uses the caduceus with devastating results. William is now focused on becoming a doctor and is working hard at school to that end, with the intent of using the caduceus for finding cures for diseases, and curing Judith of anorexia. In part 4, he's older and is trying for accelerated entry to the program that will get him into university a few years early. He has become more adept at using the caduceus - as shown when he deals ruthlessly with a teacher who stands in his way. When his mother becomes pregnant, he uses the caduceus to grant good health to the unborn child despite a hint from Mercury that it can only work within the genetic limits of the recipient, with disastrous and tragic results.

In part 5, the book takes an odd turn with the introduction of Madge's long lost first husband and the father of Ned, who does some very bizarre things. Many years have passed since the ending of part 4, and William is now married with sons of his own. Although he is doing well and the supposedly non-profit organisation he runs has produced a vaccine against AIDS, society in generally is crumbling under the pressure of a new and highly contagious disease for which his organisation is trying to find a cure.

We gradually learn in retrospect that he has been using the caduceus, initially to come up with the AIDS vaccine but, in the last ten years, to sow the seeds for the new and devastating disease, for no real reason other than it presents a fantastic business opportunity. Despite this, William has a 'clear conscience' and has no problem at all with the nationwide devastation he has caused - he has been buying up property in a particular area since he was a young man, with the intent of turning it into a vast isolation 'camp' for the unfortunate victims of the disease he presumably was planning even then to unleash.

Ironically, it is in performing an unselfish action - and there is no explanation as to why someone so callous does so - he is hoist on his own petard when he tries to help a woman shot at a roadblock for trying to escape (she has the new disease) and is arrested and sent to a detention centre where people with the disease are imprisoned.

One of the issues some readers might have with this story is the huge number of characters including various second husbands and wives and step-children. Mostly I managed to keep them clear, helped by the strong characterisation, though this started to become more difficult in the final section. However, in my opinion there is a much greater flaw. Part 5 - comprising the book's final third - falls apart in a bloodbath unleashed by a newly introduced character, and the epilogue gives a spurious 'explanation' of that character's behaviour. It is almost as if the author wanted to kill off just about everyone in a unwarranted grand guignol finale, rather than work out the implications of everything that had gone before with the wider storylines of the plague etc. There is also the odd behaviour of Madge's first husband, which introduces further complications, and the dark humour surrounding his and Madge's fate. The main problem however is that in this section, after being the focus of the story, William is largely passive and is a victim at the mercy of others, eventually pushed off to the sidelines. This final section in my opinion constitutes a large flaw after the earlier absorbing story, which was heading for at least a 4-star rating, and therefore reduces the book's overall rating to 3-stars. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
En Minneapolis, a principios de los setenta, un muchacho descubre a Santa Claus en un nevoso día de invierno. Se trata del primer contacto que el joven Billy Michaels establece con las fuerza sobrenaturales que influirán de modo decisivo en su vida. Tras la apariencia de Santa Claus se esconde Mercurio, el dios de la ciencia médica, quien enseñará a Billy todos los poderes de su caduceo. Los mejores y peores impulsos del futuro doctor en medicina ejercen una espantosa influencia en las vidas de los que le rodean, ya sean amigos o familiares. Pero el atractivo del caduceo es irresistible y Billy se convierte inevitablemente el doctor Willian Michaels, un hombre de inmensa riqueza y director de un centro de investigaciones: una autoridad nacional. Pese a ello, sólo puede mantener su omnipotencia creando una plaga de efectos igual de perniciosos, o más, que el sida. No obstante, tras una serie de de errores empieza a desenmarañarse el entramado de remedios y maldiciones del doctor Michaels y, preparado para recibir el justo castigo, empieza su caída hacia el horripilante final que se merece.
  Natt90 | Nov 9, 2022 |
Five stars. A truly literate horror novel that is really a wide swipe at Christianity and religion in every form, from Santa Claus to the Pope to televangelists. The novel starts in the 1950s with little Billy Michaels getting the power from Mercury (the Greek god) to presumably make things right. All he has to do is believe in the god and say the rhyme to get what he wants. The first problem is you can't trust a child any more than you can an adult to make the best choices. Billy isn't evil any more than any other child. The second problem is things don't always work out as you intended unless you are very careful about how you wish for things. Oh, and that magic wand known as a caduceus it needs to be balanced to work. It has to do bad to recharge the good battery in it.

Anyway the novel stretches into the near future (or what the near future might be in 1991) with the now Dr. Billy Michaels curing AIDS (to get rich) but having to create another disease to balance things out, so to speak. But he's going to cure it eventually and make everything okay again. Right. Finally you realize that everyone is doomed. The universe will have its way no matter how you manipulate it. Disch does this in a sneaky way that makes you sympathize with each character even as he is telling you he is going to knock them off. Disch's god isn't an angry god just one that proves there isn't any god in the end.

The book is as funny as it is horrid. The entire thing takes place in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Minnesota metropolitan area. Volume two of four of the Supernatural Minnesota series. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
Good in so many ways, and truly disturbing. It's not as stylishly written as The Businessman or as focused as The Priest - it's the most self-consciously Stephen King-like one in the series, and it could be read as just a nicely plotted deal-with-the-devil story. But on second reading, I got the same sense that John Clute did (in his fine foreword to the Minnesota U.P. edition), that Disch isn't just writing about one misguided kid who makes bad things happen, but a whole world riddled with fatal flaws; Billy isn't the first to go this way, it may be happening all the time (and that would explain a lot), and the supernatural evil isn't always the worst part. (Corruption in business and bureaucracy are vividly portrayed here; ironically, they didn't really figure in The Businessman.) Still, amid all the despair, Disch has some love for all of his characters - even when he's making very deadpan fun of them or putting them through hell - and his world isn't just dark but full of a kind of playful mystery, a feeling that even though both your body and your spirit may be vulnerable to all kinds of horrible things, they're both pretty amazing.here.) ( )
  elibishop173 | Oct 11, 2021 |
Back in my Stephen King days I was always trying to find a writer like him. Well Thomas M. Disch is not like him but in his own way, just as good.

It ha been so long since I've read this book (Read it in Dutch and still have a Dutch copy) but i do remember I loved this book.

So If you like King, try this book. Very good blend mixing horror and fantasy. ( )
1 vote Marlene-NL | Apr 12, 2013 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Thomas M. Dischautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Ferguson, ArchieArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Spear, GeoffreyArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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Exploring questions of guilt and responsibility, the second book in Thomas M. Disch's Supernatural Minnesota series, The M.D., is a satisfying mix of dark humor, biting social commentary, and terrifying horror. Given the power to heal or to harm by the Roman god Mercury through a magical staff, the caduceus, young Billy Michaels embarks on a lifelong journey of inflicting good and evil on those who cross his path. Wielding the caduceus, Billy, and later the grown-up, greedy physician William, can only cure in proportion to the amount of suffering he inflicts. From paralyzing his brother and mutilating schoolmates to wreaking a nationwide plague and running for-profit concentration camps for the sick, Michaels's powers spin quickly out of control.

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