A virus grants victims superhuman powers and perceptions (if it doesn’t kill them first), and Robert and Darryl are two such carriers, fighting crime and unstable fellow infectees.
In a near future when drug addiction and gangs push society closer to anarchy, the White-Fire Virus afflicts a small but important percentage. The STD shortens lifespans, distorts the mind and floods the body with bizarre, possibly sentient, photosensitive parasites. Those able to control the microbes via meds, their own will and light-tight full-body suits can develop amazing abilities, including shape-shifting and light bending (i.e. invisibility, heat rays and such). Other victims literally melt, and some go mad and turn into psychotic criminals. Robert and Darryl are two young virus-carriers who have joined an elite covert-ops squad, ostensibly searching for missing kids but more often hunting viral villains. Each man has his own baggage: The hard-nosed Robert mourns the loss of his family; maverick Darryl, sexually appealing to male and female alike, brainwashes pickups into permanent celibacy out of some spiritual crusade. They separately get involved with mystery women, also touched and warped by White Fire, who fancy themselves “arkangel” mystics ushering in a post-apocalyptic new world. But who are the do-gooders and who are the insane terrorists or pawns? Author Grey-Sun’s mutant-superhero, AIDS-metaphor concept may seem a bit overreaching at times, especially when it morphs into a philosophical quest, however, hallucinatory passages and alternative-reality themes echo the prose of Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick without seeming derivative—quite a feat there alone—even if a mismatched buddy-supercop template underpins much of the cosmic spectacle. Despite oft-referenced sexual elements, erotic content is hardly present; it’s the metaphysics—poetic, somewhat punny wordplay about the nature of God, art and Creation—that get full-frontal exposure. The author even injects an entertaining side detail: Sufferers from the virus are drawn to quoting arcane ideas and badly written allegorical novels. This title may even find a readership in religious fantasy literature, albeit of a pretty far-out variety.
Avoiding the comic-book trap (though there is some resemblance to The Matrix), this cross-dimensional thriller should give broad-minded readers a heady brew of thought and superpowered action.