Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley tells the story of Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Schist, a brilliant man whose mind is slowly slipping away due to Alzheimer’s disease. With a new horrific virus hitting the human race, Gabriel knows that he may be the only person capable of finding a cure –as long as his mind remains intact.
Let me say this: Pale Highway is like nothing I’ve ever read before. At once a sci-fi, it remains at its core an intimate look at a man’s struggle with a devastating disease. Conley’s style of writing is solid but his greatest talent lies in his character development. The journey of getting to know Gabriel was absolutely touching. Conley has openly said that his work in a nursing home was a huge inspiration for Pale Highway and his connection to the patients shines through in his writing. It’s personal, it’s heartbreaking, it’s immensely frustrating and at times it’s even funny.
I especially like that for most of the novel I wasn’t 100% sure that Gabriel was a reliable narrator. With the character’s questionable visions (there are talking slugs, people) and the sudden presence of mysterious newcomer Victor, Conley expertly has his readers second guessing everything they were so sure of.
The novel’s vivid depiction of life as a nursing home resident is unapologetic. Seriously, it will make you want to visit whatever loved ones you may have in this type of situation. By reading the book however, the reader will soon realize that Pale Highway itself isn’t nearly as wheelchair ridden as its characters. This is a fast-face, can’t-put-it-down thrilling read as Gabriel races against the clock to find a cure.
I highly recommend Pale Highway to fans of sci-fi, thrillers and to anyone with a soft spot for Alzheimer’s patients (and talking slugs, of course).
Note: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.