3 out of 4 stars
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In the historical fiction novel, One Degree, Gus Kappler details the events surrounding different incidents of strange deaths. Starting with the Vietnam War, we first encounter a Viet Cong attack on U.S troops, which leads to Private Richard Burrows sustaining severe leg injuries. His legs were saved at the 85th Evacuation Hospital, and he was making a full recovery until a sudden septic attack took his life. This was very unusual and left a lot of unanswered questions, especially considering how well Richard's health was progressing. Several other similar cases motivate a group of Vietnam Veterans to undertake the responsibility of finding out the cause of the problem. What secrets will they uncover? The answer lies in Gus Kappler's intriguing One Degree.
Gus Kappler masterfully incorporates biological science and research with some historical parts of the Vietnam War. It wasn't surprising to find out that the author served as a trauma surgeon in Vietnam, as the level of description of scenes in the jungle and hospital in Vietnam showed that he must have been close to such events in real life. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book. The story is slow-paced. While this feature was a negative feature at times, as I felt the author diverged from the story a lot and could have moved on quickly, there was enough time for me to digest characters' stories and feel what they were going through.
The impact of war on people's mental, physical, and emotional states was also evident in the story, as the author explores themes of drug abuse, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress that readers will observe in a few characters. It was also easy to relate to the characters, and I liked that their motivations for undertaking the task of solving the major problem were well explained. Loss, guilt, and a sense of responsibility motivated some of the characters, and I was rooting for them throughout. The book also explores the corruption that can be seen at different levels of the government, even in modern society.
I also thoroughly enjoyed how the author explains the biology behind the cause of the problem, and this played a significant part in the attempt to find a solution. A lot of cellular biology is discussed, and a few other scientific terms are used, but Gus does well to include illustrations explaining some of the terms used.
With respect to the book's editing, there isn't much to complain about. I found just four minor errors throughout the text, and this gave me the impression that One Degree was well edited. I would have liked the story to be organized in chronological order throughout, as it would have made the story flow even better. This was one of the few concerns I had about the book.
All things considered, a rating of 3 out of 4 is fair. One Degree could have been more concise, but it was a fantastic read. I would recommend the book to lovers of historical fiction and mystery stories. The inclusion of profane words and a few violent scenes means that the book is not suitable for a younger audience.
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