review copy; 320 pages
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay is a highly recommended tale of a virus and terror that, at times veers eerily close to today's headlines.
"CNN’s panicked headlines and live-stream updates (including bloody images from overnight riots and looting of a shopping plaza in the affluent suburb of Wellesley) are alarming, overwhelming..."
Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. Infected mammals (human and animals) spread the disease through biting. It is not a blood-borne virus. This strain has an increased virulence and is exhibiting a greatly shortened incubation period - just an hour after the bite. Once you are bitten, the virus is quickly spreading to the brain. Once it moves into the brain, the infected are driven to bite as many people as possible before they die. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government's emergency protocols are faltering.
Larsen, who’s eight months pregnant, and her husband Paul, have their
home broken into and are attacked and bitten by an infected man. The
attacker kills Paul. Nats has one bite, on her arm. She immediately
contacts her pediatrician best friend,
Ramola (Rams) Sherman. Rams attempts to get Nats to a hospital for a
it’s too late, soon it becomes clear that Rams and Nats are really
fighting to save Nat's unborn child.
Survivor Song is truly a compelling novel that is hard to put
down. It immediately grabs your attention. Part of this could be due to
the current quarantine and mask wearing while simultaneously rioting and
societal unrest is rampant. It's as if your mind says, "Of course there
will be a zombie rabies outbreak now to go along with the riots and
Rona." The current situation actually makes this seem plausible. The
other compelling part is the character development of Nats and Ramola.
They are both well-developed, dynamic, and engaging. In the first part
of the novel we know Nat's thoughts. Then in the second we are following
their frantic search for medical help for Nats and we are privy to
Ram's thoughts, while alternating chapters are transcripts of Nat's
recording messages to her unborn child.
There were a few niggling details that bothered me and, of course, a back handed political treatise is included. Life is stressful enough right now without tying a rabies/zombie outbreak to any current political situation. As the opening says, and it applies to real life today: "The heat will be blamed for the outbreak. There will be scores of other villains, some heroes too. It will be years before the virus’s full phylogenetic tree is mapped, and even then, there will continue to be doubters, naysayers, and the most cynical political opportunists. The truth will go unheeded by some, as it invariably does."