In this fiction debut, disaster stalks a vacationing doctor, his family, and thousands of fellow cruise ship guests.
Dr. Martin Walker, podiatrist, has just embarked on a cruise out of Galveston, Texas. He and his family are on the 14-deck ship The Grand Decadence. The trip is meant to help Martin and his preteen daughter, Haley, spend some time together, as they’ve grown apart lately. His mother-in-law, Veronica Covington, hasn’t helped the situation, with her incessant commentary on Martin’s generous weight and supposed cowardice. The journey begins forbiddingly when the lobster dinner makes a guest named Linda violently ill. Martin helps Linda’s husband carry her to the infirmary, where he meets Dr. Floros. As a germophobe, Martin suspects more than indigestion and realizes the ship is understaffed to handle an outbreak of norovirus, or other easily communicable diseases. Meanwhile, Yegor Petrenko, CEO of the pharmaceutical company Petretech, watches The Grand Decadence from monitors in a secluded Alaskan village. He also follows the progress of Cindy, a tropical storm growing in the Gulf of Mexico. As more people become sick on the ship, Dr. Floros narrows the disease down to a parasite. She then notices that the parasite contains the DNA of two separate species, which, she tells Martin, “can't occur naturally. The odds against that happening are staggering.” Chambers infuses his novel with terrific dollops of medical science, wit, and bathroom humor (often literally), presenting audiences with a revenge blockbuster Stephen King would enjoy. Casual readers, however, should be warned that Chambers truly relishes crafting gross-out passages, including one at a buffet in which a vomiting woman “rotated from left to right as the torrent arced across the sneeze guards like a pressure wash.” Also impressive is the author’s pistonlike control over character development and pace; the better readers understand the horrendous Veronica and the odd Capt. Brooks, the faster they will turn pages to learn their fates. And because awful luck follows Martin throughout the ship (including fistfights and marital infidelity), know that the finale is a foul yet sublime missive to fans of raunch everywhere.
A uniquely raw medical thriller brimming with perfect comedic timing.