Chris Patrick’s first novel, The Quest for Perfection, is a fictional docu-novel about what happens when the best of scientific intentions are hijacked and sent awry by the taint of self-interested financing. The novel’s narrator slips back and forth between reporting transcribed conversations with the only survivors of a botched (and deadly) set of experiments and traditional third person narration based on those conversations.
Tom and Issie, a married pair of neuroscientists, experienced a family trauma that focused their research on creating a perfect, virtual, world within an individual’s own mind. If, they reasoned, they could determine just what it took to make others whose lives had crumbled experience perfect happiness, perhaps they could recapture their own lost bliss. Full of ideas but empty of funds, they pitched their theories to the eponymous director of the Wells Foundation, a future-oriented organization full of funds but empty of scruples. Harold Wells isn’t so interested in happiness. Rather, he latches on to the fringe possibility that the human brain could be trained to perform extraordinary feats within the virtual world, then bring that ability to the conscious world.
Almost from the get-go, the experimental process experiences problems. The study’s volunteers begin to die. The subjects still alive began to experience flickers of their old, broken lives. The scientists watching from behind the glass begin to have second thoughts. And of course, none of this is taken well by the Foundation.
Patrick’s story is great. Really great. The characters are compelling, the plot interesting and even a little exciting. I loved this story.
But…the initial version released in February 2019 is riddled with typos. These run the gamut from simple misspellings to what look like incompletely replaced sentences with multiple versions of pronoun/verb combinations. They occur pretty consistently throughout, although there are some pretty clean stretches that let me get into a reading groove. None were such that they ruined my enjoyment of the story, but they did have the effect of bumping me out of the immersion. This is a real shame; as I mentioned above, I loved the story. I reached out to Chris before publishing this review, and he assured me that he went back through the novel and fixed all the errors. Assuming this is true, I have no reservations about recommending the book.
I have previously read Patrick’s two short story anthologies, and neither of them suffered from these sorts of mistakes, so he clearly has a talent for writing. I think I was just unlucky to have picked up the book before all the bugs had been squashed. Lord knows my own late-drafts continued to have errors in them that I needed help finding and correcting.
Buy if: You’re willing to overlook some issues with the prose to lose yourself in a current-day sci-fi what if.
Don’t buy if: Typos ruin your reading enjoyment. Instead, put it on your Amazon wish list and check back in a few months. As noted above, this concern has apparently been corrected. Unless the story itself does not interest you, this is a solid purchase.