Book review: The Second Cure | Margaret Morgan

Dystopian fiction seems to be having a moment right now (thank you Margaret Atwood). I should find that disturbing. The growing number of futuristic writers might just be a bunch of misanthropes, or they’re a bunch of oracles delivering foreboding tidings. When a highly intelligent and plausible novel like Margaret Morgan’s ‘The Second Cure’ comes along, I fear the latter may be true.

Set in NSW and Queensland in the very near future, ‘The Second Cure’ tells the story of a plague, a biological predisposition to extreme right-wing politics, synaesthesia, cultish religious fervour gone mad, tenacity in the pursuit of justice, family, love, and cats.

Charlie Zinn is a research biologist in Sydney who has discovered Toxoplasmosis Pestis, a parasite that is killing off all species of cats. The parasite mutates to infect humans with the extraordinary effect of inducing various types of synaesthesia as well as causing people to lose their religious beliefs. Queensland premier Jack Effenberg and his wife Marion are purely evil protagonists with an extreme right wing political agenda mixed with extreme, regressive Christian beliefs. Effenberg is Joh Bjelke-Petersen on steroids, and he succeeds where Joh himself failed; secession of his state from the rest of Australia. Secession actually occurs in the northern part of the state where new country the Republic of Capricornia is formed. Capricornia is supposedly free of Toxoplasmosis Pestis and as such, the creepy, oppressive religious state flourishes.

While Margaret Morgan’s scientific and biological detail can cause the eyes to glaze over at times, the book is an engrossing account of how psychopathic, charismatic leaders can cause such far-reaching damage so quickly, by preying on unfounded fears. Don’t mean to state the obvious in our tumultuous times but, sound familiar? It is also a story of how committed individuals, resolute in their purpose, can fight back.

I love a good twist at the end of a novel and this book has two beauties. But, a moral dilemma is also presented. Would you alter the natural course of history to rid the world of your perception of evil if you had the scientific know-how? What would be the consequences?

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