by Rajan Khanna
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Jon Guenther
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616149826
Date: 07 October 2014 List Price $17.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Note: If you are a guardian screening it for a younger audience, this book contains graphic subject matter.
The protagonist in the novel is, in some ways, an anti-hero of sorts. This made it very difficult to like him in a story where there wasn't much else to like. It's a dangerous, post-apocalyptic society filled with slavering lunatics who can transmit their disease simply through contact with their blood, so there's lots of a danger from both sides (the Ferals and the survivors who are just out for themselves). In that regard, we aren't supposed to like it. That forced me as a reader to put all of my hope into the heroes of the story. Unfortunately, I didn't really find any save for one guy who helps Ben in his time of need.
The scientific conceptualizations themselves (airships, Steampunk mixed with sci-fi gadgetry) provided for an interesting setting. The characters were superficially drawn in more than one instance, however. Gold seems especially shallow, having spent years with virologist Miranda and having, on some level, intimating through the first-person, present perfect tense narrative that he's fallen deeply in love with her, yet the next minute thinks nothing of having sex with some woman he hasn't seen in years. For what reason? Old time's sake or he's still in love with her? Didn't buy it.
The actual medical science behind this virus is also never explored, which I would have thought might make an extremely interesting way to build tension. Instead, the plot jumps and shifts and the main conflict is never realized, or the stakes just don't end up seeming quite high enough to keep things interesting. We also never get to know whether they find a cure or not.
The last piece is probably the most frustrating, and that is the profanity littered throughout the book. I didn't stop to count the number of times the "f-bomb" is dropped, but I can assure you it's a lot. Profanity in context doesn't bother me at all, but when it's used inappropriately or just seemingly for the sake of using it, it becomes a sign of immature writing and can be a distraction for a lot of readers.
I had thought this would be an excellent read and on the level of basic escapist fiction it was decent. Unfortunately, the things it lacked most were a strong editorial hand and a more experienced author with the ability to carry off a novel-length story-line. Personally, I don't recommend this one. It just lacked in too many areas for me to enjoy it.