Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading The Final Virus by Carol J Hedges
My Review: 4 stars out of 5
Back in 2007, SciFi writer Bruce Sterling proposed “An Eschatological Taxonomy“. (Yeah, I had to look that one up too. Apparently, eschatological means the study of the end of the world. Who knew?) According to this world-ending events scale, Carol Hedges’ new post-apocalyptic YA thriller is a level 2—
“Global civilization destroyed; millions (at most) remain alive, in isolated locations, with ongoing death rate likely exceeding birth rate. Chance of humankind recovery: slim. Many non-human species die off, but some remain and, over time, begin to expand and diverge. Chance of biosphere recovery: good.”—http://www.openthefuture.com/2006/12/an_eschatological_taxonomy.html
So readers might be surprised to meet the main characters—teenagers who live in suburban houses, attend high school, go to the mall, and play video games on their home computers. At school, they are taught the history of the previous century’s disaster, The Great Cybercrash. Following the destruction of much of the world’s population due to climate change, worldwide crop failures, and plagues, a single company—Globaltraid—under a seemingly immortal President, led the remnants of humanity back to relative prosperity in a regenerating world. Or did they?
High school senior Will begins to question this version of events when his father is killed in a mysterious workplace “accident”. He is accompanied by the class outsider, Amber, who sees ever-increasing visions of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. With the help of Ned—an artificial intelligence construct with a video-game addicted multiple-personality disorder—Will and Amber begin to kick over the stones that their world is founded on. What they find underneath could kill them. And destroy the world.
There were so many things I loved in this book, such as the way the action was set in a suburban location so normal it took a while to realize that for this Earth, the setting was anything but normal. I particularly liked the creepy President, a man so ancient he has trouble remembering to care about anything except his own ongoing survival. Both Will and Amber’s characters were believable as the high school’s golden boy and outsider girl. And even the supporting characters such as Will’s little sister, and the brother and sister of Will’s nemesis Mr. Neots, were fun to read if less well-rounded.
There were some pieces that didn’t work for me. Even in a low-tech post-apocalyptic tale like this one, the science was dubious at best. Okay, maybe there was an instantaneous and globalwide virus that caused every machine in the world to fail simultaneously. Didn’t anyone ever hear about backups? If most of the world’s ecosystem is wiped out, what are Will’s town and the others using for raw materials to make their cars, computers, and provide their food? And don’t even get me started on Ned, the all-powerful computer (who somehow survived the cybercrash and hundreds of years later still can hack current code?), or on the fact that despite it being centuries later, there has been no noticeable change in dress/morals/family structure/customs/language/housing/machinery? Why are all parents invisible, evil, or dead? And especially why is it that apparently only the descendents of white middle-class types have survived?
But even with these elements, I would give The Final Virus four stars. I enjoyed the way it kept adding twists and turns at each step. Amber’s semi-prescient premonitions contrasted well with Will’s appealing cluelessness, both in their developing relationship and in the unfolding events. I realize that it’s already a little long for a novella, but I wish that the ending had gone into more detail about events and their wrapup. Maybe fodder for a sequel?