by Peter Christian Hall ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 16, 2012
A New York-based blogger chronicles a worldwide flu outbreak until the fallout from the pandemic—and his blogging—crashes through his front door.
Maskman, aka Count Blogula, is a libertarian flu profiteer, selling gloves, masks and goggles on his website while writing feverishly about the coming pandemic, a deadly strain of avian flu called H5N1. When his blog’s readership explodes overnight, educating the masses from his online soapbox becomes priority one, making him an anonymous celebrity in the flu-blog community, even earning him a mysterious, yet charming, female stalker. As more people succumb to the disease, Blogula watches as his community descends into anarchy, and the country falls into a state of martial law, where America’s most prolific flu fighter is now branded a terrorist. Hall’s debut recalls a modern take on Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, striving for and mostly achieving the same level of thoroughness. The novel is well researched and notable for pointing out what we know, or perhaps more importantly don’t know, about influenza. The sole complication is the narrator. Blogula is a detached, half-Randian narcissist, lacking compassion in little ways that speak volumes about his character, making him feel largely unreliable. While these flaws render many of his valid points suspect, it actually strengthens the story, and the surplus of self-involved musings directed at readers perfectly captures the unique tone often struck by even the most professional bloggers. The only other downside to the book’s “blog as a novel” literary device is pacing-related—big moments, from the flu’s resurgences to the breakdown of law and order, are almost always recounted in the past tense, robbing these events of urgency and narrative weight. Still, this same style allows for intimate slices of life amid the horror, inspirational impressions of perseverance and survival in a time of great crisis. A tad dry and exposition-heavy, the novel’s style is ultimately more of an asset than a detriment to the story it seeks to tell.
Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2012
Page Count: 299
Publisher: Arterial Witness
Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2012
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).
A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Pub Date: June 16, 2020
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Kathy Reichs ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020
Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Pub Date: March 17, 2020
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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