Review: “Pandemic,” A.G. Riddle

Pros: Impressively grand scope!
Cons: I hope some coincidences get resolved in the next book!
Rating: 4 out of 5

A.G. Riddle’s long novel Pandemic (The Extinction Files, Book 1) dumps us straight into the realm of pandemic apocalypse. Dr. Peyton Shaw, who’s a highly-placed epidemiologist with the CDC, is sent to Mandera, Kenya to help deal with a new hemorrhagic fever that’s extremely virulent. Meanwhile, we also meet Desmond Hughes, who woke up in a hotel in Berlin with no memory of who he is. He finds some extremely abstruse clues, as well as a dead body in his hotel room. He escapes the police, and seems to have great knowledge of how to outwit his pursuers. He meets up with a journalist who was going to use him as a source to expose something horrible, but he has no memory of what that might be. Peyton and Desmond are connected through their past, as well as through this pandemic. There’s a mysterious organization called Citium that’s been around for more than 2000 years, and the pandemic is one part of its plan to “fix” the human race. Did Desmond have something to do with setting this in motion? And can he help to stop it?

The characters are a high point in here. Plenty of detail goes into them; we find out bits and pieces of Desmond and Peyton’s pasts as Desmond’s memories are unlocked bit by bit. There’s a wide array of characters, but enough detail went into them that I didn’t have any trouble remembering who each one was. Most if not all of the bad guys genuinely believe they’re trying to save the world–some of them absolutely believe that the casualties of the pandemic are worth what comes after.

There are definitely too many coincidences and unanswered questions. There are three parts to the Citium’s plans: Rook, Rendition, and Rapture. Rendition is Desmond’s baby, but by the end of the book we still have zero information about what it is, and I have no guesses. Hopefully the next book will live up to the drawn-out expectation. Also, Peyton and Desmond were from very different places, and met by happenstance at a Halloween party. The idea that there are multiple connections between them that go back much farther than that beggars belief. Especially paired up with some other coincidences and connections. I’m moderately hopeful that Riddle will be able to make this believable in the next volume, but I can’t see how.

This is definitely a matter of individual reader taste, but if you like a book where it’s obvious the writer has done lots of research and wants to share it with the audience, this is the book for you. There’s plenty of interesting info about everything from pandemics to Berlin tourism. This does keep things a little bit slow at times, but it’s balanced by a decent amount of action of various types.

I’ll definitely read the next book, but it isn’t my highest priority. This volume was enjoyable enough to want to continue and hopefully find out more.

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