A Pandemic, Stolen Art, and a Search For Good
A Review of The Seed of Corruption
By Michael Ferry | August 23rd, 2022 | on BOOKTRIB
GOOD VS. EVIL
“In mankind’s competition between good and evil, I don’t yet have the courage to declare a winner.” A.I. Fabler pronounces this inconclusive accounting of humanity in the introduction to his revelatory conspiracy thriller, The Seed of Corruption. This contemporary suspense thriller, rooted in on-the-ground research and current events, unfolds in Vietnam at the onset and impending outbreak of a suspicious avian virus.
This becomes the backdrop for an artist who combs through the southeast Asian countryside in search of stolen artwork and becomes entangled in the dubious plans of a mysterious organization with immeasurable power. Resonating with the hardships of the recent global pandemic, The Seed of Corruption explores a complex world of large corporations and state-sponsored entities who are able to operate in plain sight, no matter how questionable their intent, while average citizens are distracted by the greater implications of a viral pandemic.
The recipient of a large endowment from a mysterious benefactor, Anton Faraday traces a counterfeit painting all the way to Vietnam where he hopes to uncover the source of the unauthorized replication. Faraday’s search along the Mekong River Delta takes him to remote reaches of the country, far beyond the boundaries of the typical tourist zones. While there, he learns of the suspicious operations overseen by his sponsor, The Paladin Foundation for the Environment, one of several Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) active in the region under the pretext of international aid.
ART, ESPIONAGE AND A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
A particularly interesting and noteworthy aspect of this book is the central importance of the setting. The main character travels from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An and Hue, then later explores Sapa on the northern border of the country, among other locations.
Each location is rendered in fantastic detail to effectively draw the reader into the story. Beyond just providing a setting for the novel, the geography and history of Vietnam play a vital role in this tale; it is a land of intense foreign interest, and decades of conflict, deceit, manipulation, and war driven by complicated motivating factors. Did the United States go to war in Vietnam strictly for the benevolent reason of protecting innocent civilians, or were there additional reasons for their involvement? Taking a closer look at a few points in the history of the country helps to explain Faraday’s observation of a “haunted spirit of Vietnam... not just a product of his imagination, but a palpable presence.”
Faraday’s story includes references to the troubled geopolitical history of the region and complex interventions from outside forces over the course of the past six decades. There are also meaningful reflections on contemporary film and art throughout this tale, including several locations from the groundbreaking Apocalypse Now as Faraday comes to a similar realization of the true motives behind the immense forces at work around him.
The Seed of Corruption is a story within a story, based on startling real-life encounters and incidents from the author’s own travels in the region. As Faraday approaches the initial goal of his journey to Vietnam, it becomes apparent that the government agencies and multinational NGOs operating in Northern Vietnam are hiding a sinister motive. A secret with ominous implications lies at the core of this book.
STRANGER THAN FICTION
The reader is made aware of underreported facts and clandestine organizations related to the bird flu pandemic, which crippled much of Asia fifteen years ago. These ripples of truth from the past have undeniable implications on the 2020 viral outbreak that has devastated every country and economy around the globe for the past two years.
A sophisticated tale of conspiracy and search for truth, The Seed of Corruption offers modern intrigue as well as a classic storyline that brings to mind Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In the question of good and evil, author A.I. Fabler provides examples of both: the avarice of man as well as the courage of those who seek the truth in the face of tremendous opposition.
Readers will be left pondering the question, posed by the main character of this novel: “When you know something is wrong, do you ignore it and hope it goes away, or do you look for the evidence, no matter how difficult, embarrassing, or dangerous that might be?” While the novel makes it abundantly clear the lengths both Fabler and Faraday would go to reveal the truth, The Seed of Corruption challenges the reader to consider their personal convictions and how far they, too, would be willing to go.
A Q&A interview with A.I. Fabler can be read