Pandora’s Box gets opened for the gazillionth time, so here’s humankind, yet again, hanging on for dear life in this clever, apocalyptic thriller.
A rich Greek collector demonstrates the wonders of his latest artifact, and it’s Katie-bar-the-door. Released is Corfu (named after its latest site of origin), a plague last seen early in the first century, and one so deadly that, unlike bubonic plague, AIDS, or Ebola, for instance, it leaves no survivors. To combat this pestilence, a top-drawer, multidisciplined task force of scientists assembles at Los Alamos, a 21st-century update of the Manhattan Project. In the forefront is Miranda Abbott, 20, an authentic scientific wunderkind. And more. Like Joan of Arc, she is unself-consciously charismatic, a leader despite herself. Her brain is phenomenal and her heart pure, but she has enemies. The virulent, ego-driven Edward Cavendish, who clones humans to serve as lab rats, stands in the van of them. Among Miranda’s friends is Nathan Lee Swift, a wanderer with a rap sheet filled with a record of murder and cannibalism. But Miranda soon learns that Nathan Lee was framed, and the two begin to trust, and finally love, each other. In the meantime, Corfu has been slurping up populations as if they were milkshakes. In the US, the social contract has taken a hammering, generating a wide range of bizarre behavior—from paralyzing terror through denial and on to an ecstatic, wide-armed welcome befitting long-awaited Judgment Day. As the intensive search for survivors remains unproductive, defeatism sets in at Los Alamos. The scientists are desperate for access to a Corfu-resistant genetic code if they are to design a successful immune immunization, but time is running out.
Long writes stylishly and tells a good yarn (The Descent, 1999, etc.), but he needs a vaccine himself against the melodrama bug that bites and buckles his overelaborate endings.