Wise and Wise’s debut novel delivers a science-fiction tale of zombies and cloning in modern-day Pennsylvania.
Tim and Nora, a newly engaged couple, see news stories chronicling several gruesome killings by zombie-like attackers in Philadelphia. Nora urges Tim, who works for the Centers for Disease Control, to use his experience and credentials to find out more about the virus that’s causing the zombies’ symptoms. Its source turns out to be a company called the Environmental Conscience, headed by Mr. Oldham, an aging genius who wants to live forever. The company’s head scientist, Dr. Denat, has created a computer program called SALI (“synthetic algorithm for life inscription”) that allows the consciousness of high-paying clients to be “downloaded” into a clone’s brain—a way of ensuring that people’s memories will not die with them. However, the new, cloned hosts become infected with a virus that suppresses their self-awareness, which causes them to transform into violent zombies. As a result, Oldham decides to use Tommy, an inquisitive, non-cloned boy (who happens to be Denat’s son) to be his host as his health wanes. Tim and Nora, meanwhile, fight to stop the growing zombie army and the evil SALI supercomputer, and this ambitious story brings several plot lines and characters together for a gripping climax. Although the novel sometimes gives undue emphasis to relatively minor plot points, it gains momentum and precision as it progresses, and its descriptions are often spot-on (“One wandering finger traced the dark, ragged, meandering rivers that flowed through white marble tabletop…He imagined following them to some dark, lonely place in a vast rain forest.”). It also provides the gore that readers expect in a zombie novel without ever going over the top. Overall, the Wises offer readers a solid tale of intrigue that also explores humanity’s greed for knowledge, money and immortality.
An engaging read for sci-fi and zombie fans.