The best thriller books that combine medicine with technology

Who am I?

The movie and novel Fantastic Voyage came along just as I was falling in love with science fiction like Star Trek along with the written works of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham, and others, and I fell really hard. Fantastic Voyage has stayed with me, a lifelong favourite, but, like Asimov himself, I didn’t think a shrink ray would ever be possible. So, I asked myself, how could this story really happen? And the answer was the nanotechnology and virtual reality combination I describe in The Primus Labyrinth, not much of a stretch from technology currently being developed. They’re very different stories, but the lineage is pretty clear!


I wrote...

The Primus Labyrinth

By Scott Overton,

Book cover of The Primus Labyrinth

What is my book about?

A woman’s bloodstream has been seeded with death. An American president must betray his country or sacrifice a woman he loves. And their only hope lies with a broken man and a desperate gamble.

Curran Hunter almost died at the bottom of the ocean. Now an innocent victim will die unless Hunter can purge her body of deadly devices by piloting the Primus, a prototype submersible the size of a virus. Its control system uses Virtual Reality—its creators assure Hunter there can be no danger to him. They are utterly wrong. Hunter’s every belief will be tested, his very sanity on the line as he rides the currents of the inner ocean in a race against time!

The books I picked & why

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Fantastic Voyage

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of Fantastic Voyage

Why this book?

This classic 1966 movie and the novelization by SF icon Isaac Asimov really hooked me on science fiction. So much so that I later felt compelled to write an hommage to it. Travelling through the human bloodstream? Being attacked by antibodies and white blood cells? Irresistible! One of the things SF does best is to show us familiar things from an entirely new perspective, and Fantastic Voyage did that in spades with a premise that was outlandish but completely serious and groundbreaking. Although Asimov wrote the novel version from the screenplay, it was released before the movie and it’s difficult to separate the two. I really recommend enjoying both.

Asimov later wrote a novel of his own (not a sequel) called Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain published in 1987, but it isn’t all that memorable.

Fantastic Voyage

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fantastic Voyage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fabulous adventure into the last frontier of man!

Attention! This is the last message you will receive until your mission is completed. You have sixty minutes once miniaturization is complete. You must be out of Benes’ body before then. If not, you will return to normal size and kill Benes regardless of the success of the surgery.

Four men and one woman reduced to a microscopic fraction of their original size, boarding a miniaturized atomic sub and being injected into a dying man's carotid artery. Passing through the heart, entering the inner ear where even the slightest sound would…


Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein

Why this book?

This was one of my first fiction favourites, and you can’t talk about medical technology in fiction without talking about the book that started it all. Frankenstein is often called the first science fiction novel, and I completely agree, but let’s not forget that secondary title: The Modern Prometheus, proclaiming a modern mythology that equates science with stealing fire from the gods. A cautionary message about the promise and perils of the search for knowledge, the essence of the story will never be outdated: a would-be-creator reaching too far, ultimately failing his/her creation and being destroyed by it.

If you only know Frankenstein from monster movies, you owe it to yourself to read the original. It’s a masterpiece.

Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…


The Andromeda Strain

By Michael Crichton,

Book cover of The Andromeda Strain

Why this book?

Michael Crichton is the author that readers most often compare my own novels to, set in the present day or near future, offering high-concept plots, and providing lots of suspense and action. But I don’t claim to reach that standard, because Crichton was a master and this early novel of his blew me away. In coldly understated prose, its account of an instantly deadly unknown pathogen in a small town is terrifying. The bleeding-edge Wildfire laboratory tasked with stopping the organism is geek-heaven. And Crichton ruthlessly cranks up the tension with daunting puzzles, a nuclear threat, and an inexorable timetable to prevent humanity’s extinction. The Andromeda Strain is a must-read.

The Andromeda Strain

By Michael Crichton,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Andromeda Strain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Sphere comes a captivating thriller about a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism, which threatens to annihilate human life.
 
Five prominent biophysicists have warned the United States government that sterilization procedures for returning space probes may be inadequate to guarantee uncontaminated re-entry to the atmosphere. Two years later, a probe satellite falls to the earth and lands in a desolate region of northeastern Arizona. Nearby, in the town of Piedmont, bodies lie heaped and flung across the ground, faces locked in frozen surprise. What could cause such shock and fear? The terror has begun, and…


Cyborg

By Martin Caidin,

Book cover of Cyborg

Why this book?

The 1972 novel Cyborg probably isn’t well-known now, but everyone knows the mid-70s TV show it inspired, The Six Million Dollar Man. The show often dealt with serious subjects, but (much as I loved it) its sometimes cartoonish sound effects and slow-mo undercut its dramatic punch. Caidin’s novel plays it straight. Steve Austin survives a horrendous plane crash and is rebuilt with super-advanced prosthetics without his permission, and his reaction is anything but heroic. He’s recruited as a special operative against his will, and the story is an earnest examination of psychological pain and divided loyalties. Cyborg wasn’t the first story to describe the military application of high-tech prosthetics, but it does create a pretty cool James Bond vibe in its second half that’s much more adult than the TV version.

Cyborg

By Martin Caidin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cyborg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Boys from Brazil

By Ira Levin,

Book cover of The Boys from Brazil

Why this book?

Cloning is a medical technology with terrific dramatic potential, and The Boys from Brazil was one of the first novels to involve cloning a major historical figure. The bad guy behind this plan is the infamous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” so no points for guessing who he’s trying to recreate, but the plot is still exciting as an aging Nazi hunter races against time to stop the madness. The book notably pointed out that a cloned human would only be a physical copy of the original unless they were provided with a similar series of life experiences to shape their psyche.

It might feel a little dated now—on the other hand, with the recent rise of neo-Nazis and other hard-right extremists, it might also be very timely.

The Boys from Brazil

By Ira Levin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Boys from Brazil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic thriller, Ira Levin imagines Dr Josef Mengele's nightmarish plot to restore the Third Reich. Alive and hiding in South America, thirty years after the end of the Second World War, Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a sinister project - the creation of the Fourth Reich. Ageing Nazi hunter Yakov Lieberman is informed of the plot but before he hears the evidence, his source is killed . . .

Spanning continents and inspired by true events, what follows is one of Levin's most masterful tales, both timeless and chillingly plausible.

Praise for Ira Levin:

'Levin…


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