If TV reruns of “Midsomer Murders” are no longer filling your thriller needs, consider a new book that may keep you on the edge of your seat.
Written by two brothers who grew up in Cumberland County – Tom Dardick, who lives in Enola, and Chris Dardick, now of Charles Town, West Virginia – “Sudden Onset” is a mystery with a message, a novel that strives to combine scientific knowledge with faith in a higher power.
“In the book, we look at important questions we struggle with,” said Chris Dardick, a Ph.D. who works as a molecular biologist for the USDA. “There’s that constant controversy out there, but science is not necessarily in conflict with faith.”
The brothers spent nearly a decade working together to produce a book they term a “science thriller.”
“The really super-cool ideas were Chris’s – because he’s brilliant – and I provided the prose,” said Tom, who has written screen plays and numerous articles. “But Chris was the inspiration.”
In “Sudden Onset,” scientists rush to discover the cure for a lethal disease powering through a military base and caused by something known only as SONA, for Sudden Onset Necrosis Agent.
Based at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, microbiologist Mira Wallace seeks to find the cause of the lethal menace.
It may sound eerily familiar, but the Dardick brothers began their book years before COVID became a household word.
“SONA is an agent that causes severe disease – it’s quickly lethal – but they don’t know if it’s chemical or biological,” Chris said.
Is SONA a living organism? If not, then what is it?
Protagonist Wallace has also been searching for clues to figure out the beginnings of life on this planet, a scenario that finds her on a mission to Antarctica.
Danger lurks as Wallace and her team look for answers to her quest in a body of water located two miles under the ice.
Meanwhile, there’s a bad guy whose self-serving personality creates dangerous obstacles.
The book also weaves in issues of a theological nature.
“People underestimate how miraculous this world is,” Chris said. “It really engenders true awe…. it’s amazing to see how incredible the workings of life are and how much we still don’t know about it.”
Peering through the Hubble Telescope to look at the stars is awe-inspiring, Chris said, but looking through a microscope should be just as inspiring.
“We’re teaching a lot about cell biology, hoping to get kids involved,” Chris said. “We were trying to use as little artistic license as possible and keep it scientifically feasible; we used real science and that does restrain you.”
The action-packed book is wrapped in science, so keeping the story entertaining as well as educational was a primary focus.
It’s not a textbook, by any means.
“We tried to strike a balance – being entertaining, but with a realistic feel,” Tom said. “We tried to offload the technical stuff as much as possible.”
The book has become a real family affair, as their mother, artist Necia Dardick, created illustrations for the book, and another brother, Scott, is compiling a book trailer.
Working together on the story has enhanced the brothers’ relationship, Tom said, and the camaraderie will continue as a sequel is now in the works.
“Sudden Onset” is fiction, a medium-length novel, appropriate for ages 16 and up, published by Immortal Works Publishing.
“It’s been quite a journey; it sort of took on a life of its own,” Tom said. “I didn’t feel like the creator of the story as much as the discerner of the story.”
The book launches on June 8, and on July 24, a fund-raiser will be held at the Army Heritage Educational Center in Carlisle to benefit PA Wounded Warriors. The public is invited to meet the authors and get signed copies while supporting a good cause.
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