First-time novelist Von Smith tells a complex tale centered on Survivanoia, an engineering firm with a potential link to a deadly virus.
As the novel opens, Baroness Dacianna “Daci” Von Worthington has been named the new president of Survivanoia. The company specializes in unconventional products, such as radiation-proof jogging suits, and it also develops vaccines. But has it secretly discovered an effective vaccine for the Flower Flu, a disease which renders people blind, and is there credence to a class action suit claiming that the vaccine is being withheld from the public? The Baroness is determined to uncover the truth. This book offers an indisputably novel-length story, but it’s structured as a number of shorter stories, spotlighting different characters’ perspectives. Some initially seem to be digressions, such as one featuring Vonnie, a woman who starts a career in comedy by telling jokes about her estranged, and famous, rapper husband; Vonnie’s friend, Chloe, turns out to be a Survivanoia employee. In the ingenious, intertwining narratives, the author moves back and forth in time, sometimes repeating scenes from other points of view, without ever slowing the momentum of the main Baroness/virus plot. Some events are teased in one story before readers see them fully unfold in another. The stories boast a fetching assortment of characters, including an unemployed genius scientist; the former star of a canceled television series, who takes on his TV character’s persona, uses the show’s catchphrase and hums its theme song; two stepbrothers whose mothers are married; and a noticeably masculine man in a dress. The book’s final act focuses on the Baroness and wraps up the loose ends from most of the previous stories, including revealing the aftermath of a car collision. As the story clarifies the Baroness’ actions at Survivanoia, and her reasons for being there, it gradually makes her a more sympathetic and engaging character. The story finally comes together in a satisfying conclusion.
A novel with so many painstakingly well-defined layers that readers may want to flip back to page one for a second read—or even a third.