Pros: A few details
Cons: So much badness
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
I’m a sucker. Bio-thriller happens to be one of my favorite sub-genres, and I also find the prepper phenomenon fascinating. So even though I didn’t enjoy much of the “EMP Blackout” set by James Hunt and Roger Hayden, I let myself get suckered into reading their American Quarantine- Super Boxset. (A friend labeled it a ‘valuable learning experience’.)
As before, the first part of the set is a series of novellas collected into one place by James Hunt. In his tale, Ebola comes to the US, mutates into a much more contagious form, and spreads like wildfire. We’re concerned primarily with Greg, a security alarm installer in Nevada who is also a prepper. He’s joined by Veronica, a new friend, and the two of them end up having some particularly alarming experiences.
It was a nice detail that Greg had prepped for an economic collapse or a natural disaster, and had to go out and buy a bunch of stuff to account for the unexpected contagion.
Veronica works at a bookstore that Greg frequents. They decided to get a cup of coffee, but got sidetracked by the apocalypse. He ended up inviting Veronica to hunker down with him, since she wasn’t able to leave the city to get to her aunt (roadblocks, of course). So, she knows little more about him than his name and agrees to go live in his home with him for a period of months. I’m glad that worked out well for her, because even though I think people are largely decent, this could have gone very badly.
As in Hunt’s other set of stories, bad guys are presented as cartoonishly eeeevil. Bill Hodder, a former senator, torched treatment centers with patients inside. And that’s probably the least of his crimes as he lords it over a military base that he took over. Despite the fact that he had inside help from one guy, it seemed a bit of a stretch that he could pull that off.
To go by the prepper (and apocalyptic) fiction I’ve read so far, it seems like American preppers see the military as the enemy. What I find interesting is that the one British apocalyptic book I’ve read didn’t. Clearly I need to find more British prepper fiction to see if it’s a pattern or not.
There’s a point at which some gated community residents who decided to not obey the evac-to-quarantine order find out via their ‘scout’ that there’s an armed prepper (Greg). They nonsensically decide that one prepper will have enough supplies to aid the shortages experienced by 35 families and believe they can take him down. They even drive a car into the house, not realizing that this would probably just damage or destroy many of the supplies they want.
Greg worries at various points in the narrative that old enemies want to track him down and kill him. Seriously? When millions of people are contracting ebola? I think his enemies have far bigger things to worry about, like dying.
The further I went in this tale the more I stumbled over details that just didn’t make sense to me. For instance, Greg understands perfectly something that Veronica yells up to him from the basement, but then completely and utterly misses her scream. Also, one minute Veronica can only make grunting sounds through a gag, and the next she’s clearly asking whole questions. A CDC doctor and ex-director visits a lab and it’s described as “some kind of high-tech lab” as though he wouldn’t already know exactly what kind of lab it was. At one point someone looking for Greg uses binoculars that sense body heat, and yet then it’s as though the author forgot those existed, because he totally misses Greg. And they’re never mentioned again. I also don’t understand how the two CDC scientists on Bill Hodder’s captured base so readily turned into mad scientists. One more and then I’ll stop with the nit-picky details: Greg arms some random people and everyone starts handing out headshots as though they were marksmen.
I couldn’t bring myself to care about Greg and Veronica as characters. If I hadn’t been at least a little interested in finding out where the plot would go I would have stopped reading the book partway through.
Actually, I think I stuck with it out of sheer stubbornness. I don’t recommend that as a method of choosing whether to finish a book.