Mill City Press: 4/1/2014
Trade Paperback, 396 pages
Isolation depicts a bleak but recognizable future in which the fear of contagion reaches a fever pitch as a bacterial epidemic catapults the US into an apocalyptic crisis.My Thoughts:Touch is outlawed. Mothers like Maggie bind their infants' hands, terrified they might slip fingers into mouths. Gary, a Sterilizer, uses robots to scour the infected, avoiding all contact with human flesh. Trevor, the Chief Enforcer, watches, eager to report any and all infractions.One inadvertent touch will change all of their lives.
Isolation by Denise R. Stephenson is highly recommended, especially because this could conceivably happen.
Isolation opens with a woman cutting her finger, just a little nick, while slicing red onions. Within a day she is dead from a bacterial infection. We hear about these cases today, although death may not come quite that quickly. Perhaps there is a bacterial infection, like E. coli O157:H7, running rampant, causing severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Maybe the bacterial infection is a salmonella outbreak linked back to tainted spinach. Or perhaps it is Listeria. Or Staph. The point is we all hear about these cases of bacterial infections that result in death today.
But what would happen if the bacteria became more lethal?
We need bacteria to live; it helps digestion for one thing. The problem is as we use more and more antibiotics, we are creating an environment where antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria develop. We nuke food for preservation, which kills bacteria, but does that create more resistant strains? We genetically alter crops to be resistant to diseases and bacteria, but what is the outcome, the end game, of those actions?
In Isolation, Denise R. Stephenson creates a future reality where bacteria seems to be declaring war on the human race and we are fighting back by creating government bureaucracies (through Homeland Security, NSA, etc.) to control the population and the spread of bacteria. It begins with outlawing all facial touching - don't even think about wiping your eyes, scratching your nose, etc. in a public place because chances are an enforcer will find out and there will be consequences.
AB, anti-bacterial sprays and products are the norm and liberally used. There is no chance to build up any resistance as all bacteria are deemed bad. If there is a bacterial outbreak, citizens may be required to stay isolated indoors. Eventually all touching/human contact becomes prohibited and everyone is required to stay indoors.
Isolation follows several different characters over the years as the government becomes more and more intrusive and controlling in the attempt to stop all bacteria. Interspersed through the first half of the novel are newspaper articles that provide more informative background on what is happening and on the science behind it. The news articles were a nice way to convey information as the story and the intrusiveness of the government increases. I would mention that today many people get their news online, so some of the articles could have reflected this - but they may in the final copy of the book. Either way, the news articles were effective in helping propel the story forward.
There is a huge buildup of information and over-reactions to the bacteria at the beginning of the book and then the novel focuses on individuals and how they are coping with their brave new hyper-controlled world.
A chilling scenario that could be played out today on several levels, I enjoyed Isolation enormously.
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for review purposes.
Virtual Author Book Tour