Review: “Kingdom of Needle and Bone,” Mira Grant

Pros: Wonderful plot and characters
Cons: Some readers will feel preached at
Rating: 4 out of 5

Mira Grant’s novella Kingdom of Needle and Bone introduces us to eight-year-old Lisa Morris, who has gone to a theme park with her parents. Only, she just fell ill, and has spread that illness to hundreds of other people. The new strain of measles comes to be called Morris’s disease, and it isn’t just highly contagious and virulent. It also causes the immune system to “forget” some other immunities, rendering much of the population of the world effectively unvaccinated. Thus diseases such as mumps and whooping cough make a comeback as well. There are fierce societal arguments about whether vaccinations should be mandatory, and pediatrician Izzy (Lisa’s aunt) decides that if the governments won’t do anything, she will. She finds someone with healthy children and deep pockets who would do anything to keep his children safe, and she sets out to establish quarantined areas for the healthy. The idea isn’t to repopulate the species after the diseases wreak havoc; the idea is merely to keep as many people safe as possible until vaccines and cures are inevitably found. It’s believed that Morris’s disease must be man-made, but no one takes responsibility for it.

A fair amount of time is spent on the various issues surrounding vaccination. In here, politics make unlikely bedfellows as both the anti-vaxxer movement and the pro-choice movement realize they hinge on the issue of bodily autonomy. Izzy feels very strongly that the solution isn’t enforced vaccination: it’s to deny non-vaccinated people access to the society they are endangering, and get as many people as possible to voluntarily go along with vaccination. Unfortunately, Morris’s disease killed plenty of people who had been vaccinated, so the anti-vaxxers have used that to bolster their arguments that vaccinations don’t help.

There’s enough material in here about vaccinations, anti-vaxxers, and so on that it could read as a little preachy, although it’s all done within the context of Izzy and her sisters. And it does bring up interesting questions about bodily autonomy. Her younger sister Brooke was Lisa’s mother, and is a pharmacist. Her middle sister Angela is a rabid proponent of mandatory vaccinations. Before Izzy and Brooke start their quarantine zones plan the book isn’t wholly engaging, but once they do it picks up.

I particularly enjoy the plot toward the end; obviously I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll just say it justified the entire book. I like some of Mira Grant’s other work better than this one, but this still satisfied me and left me wanting to read more of her books!

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