Reading Corner | Intriguing story in ‘Menders Choice’ lacks polished execution

The controversy of stem cell research is a subject often discussed in recent generations, with its many scientific possibilities pervading the imaginations of science fiction lovers everywhere. Having reached the popular genre, reading a novel written by a local author about this debated topic is noteworthy and remarkable. Although he has all the ingredients for an interesting science fiction and alternate history novel, “Menders Choice” by Rafe Pugia falls short of an interesting story.

This novel begins during the late 19th century in a small town, where a farm accident leaves a young boy paralyzed from the shoulders down. The coincidental duel death of a mother and baby in childbirth push a doctor to experiment with the stem cells of the infant. The doctor, grim but determined, uses the untimely death of the mother and child to see if he can save the paralyzed boy, whereas before he had only experimented with mice. The boy’s recovery is fast but not without complications. Nonetheless, the experiment is considered a success.

Encouraged by the results and hoping to find out more about these mysterious cells that can repair the human body so easily, the doctor begins testing them on himself and a few close friends. After some experimentation, the small and secretive group realizes they have effectively stopped aging. Gradually, as the science is perfected, the newly formed Miracle Group begins to age backward, becoming younger and healthier in body.

Leaving their pasts behind, the Miracle Group moves from place to place in an adventure that spans the world – and decades of time. Their attempts to release the stem cell findings are met with a series of complications, including, at one point, their own selfish desires. Throughout wars and dangerous pursuits, the Miracle Group explores the ideas of humanity, scientific ethic and the adversities of living through generation after generation.

The interesting premise is quickly lost in Pugia’s poor narration skills and grammar. The excessive amount of commas makes the process of reading halting and eventually tiring. As the novel is science fiction set in an alternate history, Pugia’s taking some liberty with scientific and historical facts is understandable. However, he will occasionally break the fourth wall of his narrative, which is jarring and unnecessary.

No matter how intriguing the story, an unpolished execution leaves the audience disappointed. Pugia definitely has the soul of a writer, and this story was an interesting take on what could have happened if some technologies were invented earlier in human history. Plus, writing and publishing a novel will always be an impressive feat, one that requires dedication and patience. Hopefully, should Pugia decide to create again, he will have improved in order for his resourceful world to really come to life.

Emily Smith, For The Sun News

Meet the authors

Pelican Bookstore in Sunset Beach, N.C., will host two author events in July:

▪ Award-winning author Susan M. Boyer (“Lowcountry Boil,” “Lowcountry Boneyard”) will have a book-signing at the store July 2 from 1-3 p.m. The store is in the Village at Sunset Beach, 1780 Chandlers Lane (behind Food Lion).

▪ Meet N.Y. Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry July 9, 4 p.m., at Silver Coast Winery, 6680 Barbeque Road NW, Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. Admission is $7.50, which includes a glass of wine. Henry’s latest novel is “The Idea of Love,” which goes on sale Tuesday.

If you have book- or author-related news, email Items and reviews run on a space-available basis.

At a glance

Title | “Menders Choice”

Author | Rafe Pugia

Publisher | American Star Books

Length | 282 pages

Cost | $27.95