Wednesday, November 5, 2014

‘The Doubt Factory’ by Paolo Bacigalupi

Book cover: The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi. Gridded image of the left side of a woman's face in three-quarter view, her eyes looking upward to her left and the viewer's right. A tagline next to the top word in the book's title reads, "You Believe What They Want You to Believe."
Alix Banks thinks she knows what her dad does for a living. He works in public relations, making sure his clients get good publicity. Where’s the harm in that?

But then Alix’s luxurious private school becomes the target of a sophisticated prank. And a mysterious stranger makes contact with her and raises an unsettling possibility: that Alix Banks’ father isn’t just in public relations.

In a “four-story tagging job,” the numbers “2.0” drip red from a building’s windows, and “thousands and thousands and thousands of rats” swarm their way out of the building.

“You want to know what this is all about?” the mysterious stranger tells her before disappearing into the crowd. “Ask your father. He’s the one who knows all the secrets.”

And as Alix becomes drawn deeper into matters surrounding a suspected terrorist group, she has to face an unsettling possibility:

Could it be true that Banks Strategy Partners is the leading specialist in product defense? Could it be that it’s her father’s business to challenge FDA concerns and keep unsafe medications on shelves?

If “2.0” is telling the truth, then Banks Strategy Partners is in the business of creating doubt. It’s The Doubt Factory.

And because it orchestrates fake scientific studies that claim the drugs are safe, because it gets these studies widely placed into newspapers with “weak editorial controls,” 100 thousand more people die than if the drugs were removed from the shelves.

Suddenly, everything Alix Banks believed is subject to serious question. Is her father responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people? Or is her attraction to the mysterious “2.0” clouding her better judgement?

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown and Company, October 2014) is available through Jackson County Library Services.

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