Book Review: “The Doubt Factory” by Paolo Bacigalupi

“The Doubt Factory” is advertised as a book for young adults. Not only is it for young adults, but anyone who can comprehend corporate cover-ups intended to make money will absolutely be enthralled by this tense thriller.

Alix and Jonah Banks attend a private school named Seitz Academy for two reasons. First, they are both very intelligent. Second, their father, Simon Banks, runs a company that works for major corporations.

When a corporation creates a medication that works for asthma, but has a significant and potentially fatal side effect on a certain percentage of people, Simon’s job is to go to court and to create a smoke screen of doubt that will let the product stay on the market for an extra three years.

True, people will die, but in those three years the company will make millions of dollars, much more than they will have to pay out to the families that are affected by losing loved ones to the side effects.

Alix Banks has no idea what her father does. She only knows that he appears to be a good father and provides very well for his family. He is much like the lawyers that worked for the cigarette companies and created a thirty-year window of doubt before the killing machine was exposed.

We meet a young man named Moses who watched his father die in the bathroom because of a drug that was extended by BSP, the company run by Simon Banks, for that extra lethal three years.

We also meet a group of young people who were negatively affected by all the drugs that were protected by the smoke screen. They join together, applying a set of skills that could potentially, if things go well, expose the smoke screen and show the inner workings of “The Doubt Factory.”

Imagine if Alix Banks, an intelligent young woman with a code of morality, found out what her father really did for a living? Where would her loyalties lie?

The Doubt Factory is intricately put together and the characters in the book, even the ones that work in security, are people that we all can relate to.

When I started reading this book, I was gripped right from the very start. Paolo Bacigalupi is an amazing writer. His young adult novel, “Ship Breaker,” was a Michael L. Printz Award winner, a National Book Award finalist, and a Locus Award winner.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s first adult novel, “The Windup Girl,” was named by Time Magazine as one of the ten best novels of 2009 and won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. Bacigalupi is a master at creating dystopian worlds, which he did in “Ship Breaker,” “The Drowned Cities” and “The Windup Girl.”

Bacigalupi put together a book of short stories called “Pump Six and Other Stories,” which was a 2008 Locus Award winner for best collection. It was also named one of the Best Books of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly.

This amazing author brings all his skills together in a fantastic roller coaster ride in  “The Doubt Factory,” with twists and turns throughout the story. There were times when I was holding my breath as the deadly security team hired by Simon Banks’ company was closing in on this group of young people gathered together to expose a group of drug-company CEOs responsible for the deaths and the crippling of individuals who had taken their drugs.

Little, Brown and Company will release “The Doubt Factory” in October of this year. No one should miss it; Paolo Bacigalupi is a genius, and one hell of a storyteller.

Even though I’ve read it, I’m buying my hard cover copy, already paid for, at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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