One book that I read many years ago, and which has stayed in my mind and for some reason become indelibly stamped into my psyche, is F. Paul Wilson’s 1979 novel, Healer.
Here’s the 1974 edition, with the Hamlyn cover:
If I have to categorise Healer, then it’s a science fiction novel with a libertarian agenda, along the same lines as Anthem by Ayn Rand, although Healer is very different in plot and style to Anthem.
Here’s a quick plot summary (WARNING – only read the following four paragraphs if you want to know what’s going to happen in the novel):
It’s a routine planetary survey, and Steven Dalt is lucky not to have died in that cave on the planet Kwashi. After all, as the natives say, of a thousand people attacked by the cave-dwelling alaret, nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine will die. Dalt survives, but not without personal cost: he has picked up a passenger: an alien intelligence that transfers itself from the alaret to take up residence in his brain. Steven Dalt will never be alone again. But Pard, as Dalt names the alien who now shares his life, is no parasite. He pays his rent by using cellular-level consciousness to maintain Dalt’s body in perfect health – no disease, no aging.
As a result, Dalt quickly finds that he has enhanced perception, reflexes, and mental abilities, abilities received in a bizarre meld with the alien cave creature, a meld that would normally have killed a sentient life form. In Dalt’s case, his and Pard’s merging has made him/it/them superhuman. And now Dalt appreciates the full and true meaning of the Kwashi natives’ saying: Of a thousand struck down by an alaret, nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine will die – for he now realises that the thousandth will not die… ever.
At the age of two hundred and eighteen years, Steven Dalt migrates to Tolive, the notorious world of the neo-anarchists. From there he emerges with an altered perspective on life and a new identity as the enigmatic Healer – mankind’s only weapon against a psychological plague sweeping across the inhabited planets.
Spanning twelve hundred years, F. Paul Wilson’s Healer follows Dalt and Pard through the centuries as he/it/they become known as The Healer, an enigmatic figure with the power to cure diseases of the mind. And when a wave of interstellar slaughter threatens the civilizations of the LaNague Federation, only The Healer has the resources to face the oncoming danger.
Obviously I won’t give away the denouement – that really would spoil the novel for any potential readers.
There are several things that are interesting about this novel. The first is that it is based on a novella entitled Pard, which F. Paul Wilson wrote and published in the December 1972 issue of Analog. Expanded into Healer, it became F. Paul Wilson’s first published novel – and then a key novel in his LaNague series.
Here’s the 2005 edition with the Infrapress cover:
It’s a good story very well told – and for a first novel, it’s exceptional. I recommend this book to everyone. Try and find a copy – there are one or two on amazon:
I enjoyed Healer very much, and I think you’ll enjoy it too.
© R J Dent (2009)