Biological terrorism forms the complex crux of Hiltz’s fast-paced, exhilarating debut.
A grisly opening chapter jumpstarts the action as the shadowy “Moone” and his henchmen survey—and set fire to—a village in southwest China that has been horrifyingly decimated by a flesh-eating disease and terrorized by mutated vermin. One year later, widower and Army veteran George Munson and his beautiful daughter Denny are getting settled in their new San Marino, Fla., home following the violent murder of beloved wife and mother Beth, back in Miami. Their safe, new life isn’t without complications; George’s secret, burgeoning love affair with neighbor Dawn Nichols rocks his already emotionally fragile daughter. His engaging career as a music engineer for an aging Latin pop star takes a back seat when a seemingly overnight influenza outbreak quickly quarantines the city. Returning home from vacation, young friends Jim, Eric, Manny and Manny’s girlfriend Kara are ordered to stay inside. Impatient hero George, however, sneaks out and vigorously interrogates a FEMA operative who reveals the “flu” epidemic is actually a man-made, highly contagious, lethal “genetic retrovirus,” the antidote of which is unavailable to the general public. Knowing they’ve all been infected, George leaves his family in search of the cure. Putting his former Army surveillance experience to good use, he stealthily sneaks onto top-secret military property, stumbles upon a germ warfare lab full of human and animal medical experiments testing, among other variations, the “Red Death #13” microbe, and desperately searches for the antivirus. Meanwhile, the Jim, Eric, Manny and Kara converge with Denny and Dawn in an effort to escape the crazed, bloodthirsty zombies that have seemingly taken over San Marino. Hiltz’s forceful narrative aptly powers George’s race against time as the virus spreads globally and his daughter is kidnapped by evil kingpin Moone in the rousing conclusion. Though scenes involving the four youths have a rushed, underdeveloped quality, Hiltz’s writing ability is promising and his creative imagination sets the stage for further high-tension adventures.
Capably written, consistently thrilling science fiction.