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Tooth And Nail by Craig Dilouie
Cover Artist: iStockphoto
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Schmidt Haus Books Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1930486987
Date: 01 April 2010 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

A deadly pandemic threatens to destroy the world. Shrouded in mystery and invoking panic, the Hong Kong Lyssavirus turns a small percentage of its victims into rabid, crazed maniacs intent on biting and mauling. If bitten by one of these Mad Dogs (or Maddies), an infected person will turn into a Mad Dog within a few hours. The virus's incubation period is extremely short. The situation has become so severe that the entire Army has been withdrawn from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Second Lieutenant Todd Bowman is the commanding officer in charge of guarding the Trinity Hospital in Midtown Manhattan. From there, Bowman leads his men to a middle school where he must rendezvous with other platoons. An army of Mad Dogs surrounds the school. Bowman is then sent on a suicide mission to rescue surviving scientists at the Bradley Institute of Graduate Microbiology and Virology Studies. Dr. Valeriya Petrova, who lies huddled in fear beneath a desk, may be the only one who has a vaccine for the Lyssavirus.

Be prepared to lose sleep or have nightmares after reading Tooth and Nail, Craig DiLouie's novel of apocalyptic horror. Its gloomy atmosphere of dread and its nonstop violence kept me intrigued from the first page to the very end. Reading this novel is like watching a violent video game rated MA for mature audiences. Every page is dripping with blood and gore; it is definitely not for the squeamish. If you are already on anti-depressants, attending AA meetings, or have suicidal tendencies, Tooth and Nail is not for you.

Reading Tooth and Nail reminded me of one of my favorite science fiction horror film series Resident Evil; a team of paramilitary commandos enters an underground laboratory, the Hive, where they are murdered by a computer and bitten by zombies infected with the highly mutative T-virus. In Tooth and Nail, Bowman and his buddies are constantly besieged by Mad Dogs. The gruesome sights they witness are like scenes from Hell. The atrocities are a thousand times worse than 9/11. America will never recover from this pandemic.

In many ways, Tooth and Nail made me grateful to be alive. We should always cherish each moment we have with our families and friends because everything can disappear so easily. Tooth and Nail is frightening in its plausibility. Viruses are one of the oldest life forms, existing before the dinosaurs. They devastated the world's population several times during the Middle Ages. They are very mutative. Only a miracle has prevented the AIDS virus from becoming airborne and infecting the entire human population. Even the Bible warns of plagues in the end times.

Once again, New York City's Manhattan is the setting, which is the case with many novels and films of environmental disaster. Millions live there. Millions become infected and die. The soldiers are constantly comparing their hardships with those they endured in Iraq. Instead of fighting Iraqi terrorists, they are fighting Americans. Worrying about loved ones whom they can't reach, eating junk food and rations, and obtaining barely enough sleep for functioning, the soldiers are mentally and physically exhausted. Life has become a nightmare. Hope is running out. All they have to cling to is each other.

Second Lieutenant Todd Bowman is promoted to commander before leading his men from the middle school to the research lab. Extremely brave, he is obsessed with following orders, even if it means the annihilation of his team. His men are composed of an odd assortment of young beefy boys. The reader can't help but contemplate which of them will survive. If Bowman is the hero, then Dr. Valeriya Petrova must be the heroine or damsel in distress. However, she has proven herself strong and courageous in order to survive the devastating attacks at the lab. The villain, naturally, is the Hong Kong Lyssavirus. In case you're wondering if there is any romance between the lead characters, there is never any time for that when creatures are literally trying to rip out your throat.

Iím thankful the author provided an alphabetical list of military acronyms and their definitions directly after the Acknowledgement page. This made reading the novel much easier. I wished he had also provided flow charts of the various ranks and organizations. I don't know if a sergeant outranks a second lieutenant or the differences between brigades, companies and battalions. Craig DiLouie, a freelance marketing consultant and technical writer, must've either served in the Army or conducted a lot of research on Army protocol, organization, weaponry and combat strategies.

Fans of apocalyptic horror novels and films will tremendously enjoy Tooth and Nail. One can only hope it will be made into a film and/or video game. Not only did Tooth and Nail remind me of Resident Evil, but I also thought about the classic Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston and I Am Legend, starring Will Smith. In the last two films, both based on Richard Matheson's classic novel, I Am Legend, there is a small percentage of plague victims who are not killed outright but mutated into crazed, inhuman creatures.

I hate to classify Tooth and Nail as a zombie novel because the Mad Dogs are not reanimated dead flesh. They are still alive and will eventually die from disease, starvation or their wounds. Once dead, they don't reanimate. However, like zombies, Mad Dogs have a strong, irresistible urge to bite and claw the uninfected. Zombie novels seem to be very popular this Spring. Last year, it was definitely vampire novels with The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy leading the pack. Written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy is the horrifying debut in a trilogy of novels in which a pandemic of vampires spread across Manhattan (of course) and threaten the rest of America and the entire world.

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