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Positive Match
Tony Chiu
Bantam Books, 407 pages

Positive Match

Tony Chiu
Tony Chiu was born in Shanghai and graduated from the University of Michigan. He has worked in all areas of media, from being a writer and editor at The New York Times and People to desktop publishing and documentaries. Chiu is at work on his next novel.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

Positive Match can be considered a science fiction novel only because it is set sometime in the near future. The technology used in the novel is all presently in use today, and the premise behind the story could be tomorrow's headlines. But the fact that Positive Match is more of a medical thriller than a hard-core science fiction novel shouldn't stop you from reading this excellent book.

Positive Match is about Caduceus 21, a rising star in the health care industry and organ transplants. With their eyes set on becoming the third largest health care provider in the United States, Caduceus 21 connects with Marx Dillon & Neil, investment bankers, in order to finance their expansion. Maggie Sepulveda, an up-and-coming junior partner in the firm, is assigned to analyze the company and check their credit worthiness. In their investigation, Maggie and her team uncover some of Caduceus' darker secrets and pay a terrible price for their discovery.

In the meantime, Nguyen-Anh Dupree, a member of Doctors Without Borders, is investigating the disappearance of a young Mexican boy who was last seen just before he attempted an illegal border crossing. With the help of two hackers, Data and Duchess, he investigates the truth behind the urban myth of the liver-eaters, evil spirits that are said to stalk the border in search of young runners to snatch and gut. Data and Duchess, otherwise known as Ignacio Tejada and Philipa Walker, follow an electronic information trail that leads back to Caduceus 21 and MedEx, a company which specializes in transporting human organs from donor to recipient. Maggie and Dupree join forces to deal with Caduceus 21 and MedEx, and the horrifying discovery that they make.

The one thing that struck me as I read this book was how plausible it all seems. From the opening chapter, set on the Mexican-American border to the unexpected, thrilling conclusion, it all feels believable. Along the way, you will be treated to an inside look at investment banking and corporate America. Why does a company decide to go public? What kind of negotiations are involved in multi-million dollar investments? I confess that I don't know a lot about these topics, but the book has lots of little details that feel right and make you wonder whether Chiu has some experience in the investment business. The story moves along at a brisk pace, however. Though some people will be distracted by these details, I think that they add to the richness of the novel.

The most interesting part of Positive Match for me was following the tale of the hackers in the book. Data and Duchess are masters at electronic intrusion and it is fascinating to watch the paths they take to uncover the secrets of Caduceus 21 and MedEx. Their ease in digging up details on people, their finances and their habits seems incredible, unless you have tried to do a little fact-finding on the Internet yourself. They casually break laws as they progress, making them a sort of modern-day Robin Hood. They exhibit a surprising level of caution in their pursuit of information, at times bordering on paranoia, but in the end their caution is justified. Perhaps the one unbelievable portion of the story involves Ignacio's brother, Javier. His brother, the head of Tres Equis, a Hispanic gang, is somewhat akin to a Hispanic Godfather. Tres Equis (sometimes slang for 'dangerous') conveniently provides the street smarts and protection that Maggie and Dupree are lacking.

Tony Chiu is either a fan of medical thrillers and/or bad movies, or an avid researcher. One of the MedEx executives is a collector of novels and movies about transplants and we are given a peak at his collection; a series of pointers to a number of books and B-movies if you choose to track them down. If you are fond of the medical thrillers by Michael Crichton or Robin Cook, or if you enjoy the exploits of computer hackers, you'll certainly enjoy Positive Match. I had a hard time putting this book down and I think that others will as well.

Copyright © 1997 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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