Volume 30, Number 1, Fall 2011

The Immune

Written by Doc Lucky Meisenheimer

LJS&S Publishing, 2011
Reviewed by Steve Trinward

You wake up on what seems like a normal day, and flick on the news as you’re getting ready to roll. Suddenly, the screen is filled with scenes of death and destruction. You stare horrified as hundreds, maybe thousands, of people are dying right before your eyes. Even though this is happening in some foreign land, you’re still mesmerized by the vision.

No, we’re not talking hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons or other “natural” disasters; nor are we dealing with human terrorists, of whatever ethnic stripe. Welcome to the world of The Immune, a fascinating near-future adventure novel by Doc Lucky Meisenheimer. Taking one part H. G Wells, several bits of Robert A. Heinlein and a few echoes of George Orwell, Alduous Huxley and other dystopian visionaries, he’s created an allegory that encompasses the 9/11 attacks, environmental mutation fears, government corruption and man-against-the-State, producing a stunning page-turner in the process.

The book opens innocently enough: Dr. John Long is having a meal on Grand Cayman Island with the woman he loves, Cassandra Shelly. (It’s all so sweet: He pops the question, along with the ring, during dinner; the next day they’re diving together off a coral reef.) Within a few pages, however, this idyllic setting of bliss turns into the televised horrors of an attack in Nigeria, and the adventure begins. In this case, though, the attack-force is not terrorist Muslims or other human elements, but a number of gigantic floating jellyfish (imagine a genetically mutated cross between a Portuguese Man o’ War and a blimp).

These “airwars” float across the sky, their tentacles drooping down with lethal stings, gathering up and digesting any organic substance along their paths. Nobody’s safe, and thousands die in the first attack. As more “advanced” societies attempt to fight back, the next surprise unfolds: killing an airwar by puncturing its air-sac only causes it to reproduce, releasing thousands of smaller versions of itself! The reaction of the nation-states (and the power elites who run them) is instantaneous: if you can’t beat them ... lie down and let them pass in peace! Within a matter of days, the sole officially accepted response to an airwar attack is “run, hide, do no harm.”

Advocating any other maneuver makes you a traitor to humanity, subject to censorship, lock-up...even death. Soon, even the most allegedly “civilized” societies and nations kowtow to the edicts of the Airwars Scientific Council (ASC), which formed instantaneously (almost too quickly) after the first attack. Meanwhile, even larger airwars versions, spanning two or three football-fields and known as Colossi, start surrounding most cities.

Needless to say, the larger effect of this is to aggrandize power among those few (self-appointed) overlords at the very top of the societal food-chain. The ASC quickly morphs into the Airwars Security Council, assuming control over the world government that’s formed in the wake of the terror. Its members include the usual suspects: A few (mostly near the top of the pyramid) are elected officials; the vast majority are either military officers or government bureaucrats, along with a number of unelected recent political appointees (it also seems a lot of U.S. Senators, along with other top politicians, have been dying of natural causes ...).

Naturally, not everyone’s willing to play under these rules. A few brave souls form into militias, most notably Mad Mike’s Liberty Fighters, to seek out (and attempt to destroy) the invaders. Unfortunately, each attack on an airwar only releases those thousands of baby-versions, so Mad Mike and his lads are soon declared enemies of society, and targeted by both police and military forces. Alongside this political overlay, rumors mount that at least some humans may be immune to the stings, including one Nigerian fellow named Ube Watabee.

Enter Dr. Long, who (having lost his beloved Cassandra to an airwar attack) swears vengeance on the beasts and their reputed creator: Dr. Joseph Sengele, a mad biologist who’s now been captured and held incommunicado somewhere, while ASC scientists (now the only approved scientists on the planet) torture and interrogate him. Long also has stopped caring whether he lives or dies, so when confronted with a nearby airwar attack over water, he dives in, swims into the tentacles, and (through a combination of happenstance, medical knowhow, deductive reasoning and dumb luck) manages to down the critter, without firing a single shot or releasing any “babies” into the air. What’s more, he does this without sustaining a single sting from the airwar.

This makes him a hero and media darling, but it also puts him in peril from ASC overlords with other agendas. Fortunately, it brings him to the attention of Navy Admiral J. P. Beckwourth, who uses his power as ASC’s propaganda director to rescue John (now dubbed “The Immune”) from a ghastly demise, and make him the figurehead for his informational (and disinformational) campaign, designed in part to keep the lid on reprisals against airwars. The Admiral builds his own power-base in the process, while commandeering a small force of immunes (who also swim well, and are thus able to mimic John’s methods for airwar-downing).

If this seems a long buildup for a book review, it’s at least partially necessary; there are enough details in The Immune to sate the most demanding literary palate, although for the most part they’re smoothly integrated into the dialogue and a few brief expository segments. Meanwhile, The Immune has enough plot twists and turns to satisfy any reader. Just when you think you’ve figured out how it ends, how the airwars came to be and how they’re conquered (even whose side each character is really on!), some new item twists those conclusions into a pretzel. (The careful reader may notice tiny clues within the early text, hinting at something much bigger going on. This reviewer only caught most of them on the second read-through, but they’re clearly there.)

In addition, a libertarian audience will find more than enough anti-statism in this work. Almost without exception, the politicians are corrupt, venal and power-driven; the same goes for most of the high-ranking military officers. Dr. John Long, on the other hand, is a man of integrity and honor, who only seeks to avenge his dear love’s murder. He’s also surrounded by characters possessing varying degrees of these qualities, not all of whom turn out to be what you expected.

Meanwhile, the allegorical (often literal) comparisons with how the IRS, DEA, CIA (and, most recently, the Department of Homeland Security) came to be and to hold such immense power, are as striking as they may be instructional. The author’s portrayal of how liberty falls instantly in the face of fear and the promise of “public safety” brings alive Ben Franklin’s immortal advice: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither...

Meanwhile, the text is peppered with wonderful aphorisms about the abuse of power (“politicians are experts at reckless compassion,” p. 35; “The problem with politicians is they always come to believe power is wisdom,” p. 62), the tenuous status of liberty (“... a fragile gift; take one vial of fear, add three drops of lust-for-power, and it’s easily poisoned,” p. 341) and this reviewer’s personal favorite (p. 226): “All societies have a ruling class, and all ruling classes have privileges. The certainty of this fact ranks up there with death and taxes.” (Promotion for this book might consider a t-shirt or bumpersticker franchise; there are ample opportunities for new catchphrases entering the culture within the text.)

In addition, the entire book is built upon considerations of the “FS maneuver” (defined loosely as “a deception hiding an underlying agenda”). The plot is itself a series of deceptions and red herrings, some delivered by the various characters, others by the author directly. The term gets its name from the diversionary tactics that brought about the successful D-Day invasion at Normandy. “FS” stands for Fortitude South, which was the code name for that operation, and reportedly involved dummy rubber tanks, faked transmissions from fictitious army units and many other aspects of disinformation. The author’s ingenious use of this technique adds a whole new layer to the narrative, and will twist the average reader into knots trying to predict the ending. Best advice: strap in securely, open the book and enjoy the ride!

Doc Lucky (Dr. John) Meisenheimer seems an unlikely author for a book like this, at least at first glance. His current position as an Orlando dermatologic surgeon (chief of that division at Orlando Regional Medical Center) is preceded by his times as a national champion swimmer and a yo-yo collector (and author of a book about such collecting), along with a recent stint as writer-director of a National Lampoon production, a look-behind-the-scenes of the making of the parody RoboDoc.

However, he has somehow taken this eclectic combination of skills and experience, added a truly libertarian perspective on politics and culture, and woven a cautionary tale about how too much reliance on society and trust in government solutions can only lead to more need for individual creativity and self-determination to unwind the spools of red tape and power-lust, and actually find a solution to life’s problems.

Along the way he presents a love story, a number of family interactions, looks into the hearts (of various shades of red, black and grey) of politicians, soldiers, sailors, airmen, doctors, lawyers and so-called “ordinary folk” alike, with a unifying theme about the danger of letting liberty be subordinated to false security. The Immune deserves to be added to both your summer-reading list and your collection of pro-liberty dystopian visions. It may proudly take its place alongside the classics of libertarian-themed speculative fiction by Heinlein, Spider Robinson, L. Neil Smith and their ilk.


The Immune is available from LJS&S Publishing, or via http://www.immune.com.

This review originally appeared online at Rational Review and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

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