Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Plague

The Plague by Kevin Chong
Arsenal Pulp Press: 4/24/18
eBook review copy; 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9781551527185

The Plague by Kevin Chong is a recommended modern adaptation of Albert Camus's original 1947 classic novel.

The Plague is written as a historical account looking back to the year 201- when the plague occurred. The setting is moved from the original French village or Oran to present day Vancouver where the unnamed, omniscient narrator tells the story and follows three characters. After the rats and subsequent other wild animals who live in modern cities started dying in alarming numbers, then people began to experience flu-like symptoms and swelling in their lymph nodes. The sick are clearly infected with Yersinia pestis, or the plague, and the city is immediately placed under quarantine.

Dr. Bernard Rieux is trap in the city while his wife is off receiving alternate treatment for her cancer. He is trying to find a way to redress the treatment-resistant disease, while he is alternately seeking to find meaning in suffering. Megan Tso is an American writer who is trapped in the city while on a book tour. She is trying to hide from an ex while assisting Dr. Rieux. Raymond Siddhu, who is married and the father of twins, is a reporter who is trapped in the city due to the quarantine.

Chong explores the same themes as the original novel, including the nature of destiny and the human condition, the frailties of human behavior, the psychological strain of being under quarantine, and the bravery required in the face of futility. He also places the novel in the present day by addressing many current political and cultural anxieties. His characters are well-developed and compelling. Chong does an incredible job developing his characters and making them real individuals facing a stressful crisis.

The plot however, when it should be full of nerve-racking tension and anxiety because, duh, it's the plague in a major city, is actually too slow moving and, well, a bit dull. As a character study and used as a comparison to Camus's novel, it is worthwhile to read; as a novel though about the plague hitting Vancouver, the pace of the actual story is rather weary.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Arsenal Pulp Press

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