Saturday, May 30, 2009

1028. Plague Year

Plague Year by Jeff Carlson is the debut novel of a new talent in the Science Fiction genre. In the back cover of the paperback edition, no less a master of the genre than David Brin says: "One of the best debut novels in years." And Kevin J. Anderson, a writer whose Saga of the Seven Suns kept me enthralled for years is quoted as saying "Fascinating."

With this kind introduction, a novel of this type has to be good, right? After all, a number of forum members on BookMooch actually recommended this book to me. The book covers a subject matter that I adore, nanotechnology...How I did not become a biochemist or a biological engineer, I don't know. I would have loved to play with tiny little machines. So, my expectation were pretty high going into this book. Not discounting the fact that it's also a book in the "Post-Apocalyptic" sub-genre of Science Fiction.

To be honest, I did enjoy the book on a certain level. And yes, I completely identified with Cam. I thought he was the most well rounded of the characters in the book. But apart from characterization problems such as Cam Najarro and Ruth Goldman, I had issues with some of the decisions the characters were making. I understand these characters belong to a certain author who has to lead them to a certain action sequence and then to a certain outcome, but there were times when their actions made no sense. So, I had problems with the structure of the book.

I also had problems with the language as used throughout the book. Granted, I might not have been an English major in College, but the way a lot of sentences were written seemed odd to me. They weren't particularly wrong, but they were off-putting. Oh, I followed the action alright, but the language made that journey a jarring ride. And this could be because of subtleties in the language that even I am not aware of.

What was the bulk of the story about? Quoting from the back cover: "The nanotechnology was designed to fight cancer. Instead, it evolved into the machine plague, killing nearly five billion people and changing life in Earth forever. The nanotech has one weakness: It self-destructs at altitudes above ten thousand feet..."

So, there are survivors, and a group of scientists who are sent onto the International Space Station (ISS) to escape the Plague. But eventually they are going to have to come back because they are going to run out of supplies and because there is only so much they can do up there. Meanwhile the survivors out West, pick-up one of the creators of the Plague.

You know what I kept waiting to happen in this book? Yes, you have destroyed humankind successfully with this Machine Plague. And yes, there are immense consequences for the ecosystem and the entire planet. Now, show us the next step, show us the ingenuity of the human mind and the promise of the technology. Show us what a well-meaning scientist with the right tools can do with nano-technology...

I give this book 2 stars out of 5.

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