And the world went into lock-down.
The end of 2019 and 2020, the world was hit with a pandemic, its roots embedded in a small Chinese lab in Wuhan. This is the controversial story that sets to blow apart what a government may have kept hidden.
The story begins in 1346 Caffa, Crimea. A plague has ravaged parts of Asia. However, it is a battle in a Caffa fortress that sets the world alight, and officially sends one of the most deadliest viruses to Europe.
We then jump forward to 2019 where journalist Gabe Salvi is sent to Wuhan to publicise the military Olympic games. He is caught up in one of the most conspiratorial events of our time, battling to prevent a major disaster from occurring.
Jia, a student volunteer at the military games is undergoing an internship at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. With a keen interest in science, she has followed the research of Dr Shi Zhengli, known as the ‘bat lady’. Her involvement brings her in the sights of a terrorist group seeking to overthrow the government, and to fortify a long-lost race that once ruled a large part of Asia.
Gabe is targeted by the ‘villain’, followed and chased after stumbling onto something a group wants to keep hidden. Meanwhile, Jia continues to make her own investigations on why this virus they are researching has been taken out of the lab as a sample.
Jia and Gabe, along with their friends scramble to discover who is behind this potential plot. Their lives are put at stake. They must act quickly before a virus is released into the public.
How far does Gabriel delve into this controversial subject?
The story alludes that it is supposed to be more plot-driven than character-driven due to the premise of the book. However, the characters take center stage, while the virus is a backdrop to how the characters progress in the story.
Gabe is a sports writer. Quirky, likeable. Just your run-of-the-mill character that starts off as nothing special, yet is put in a position where he cannot ignore what is going on. Jia’s POV is just as pivotal as Gabe’s. Both characters are set-up as strong and determined people. Jia’s backstory is particularly interesting with just how closely she is connected to the current events.
The focus of the book is not so much on the after-effects, it brings focus on how the virus may have gotten out, and how several people tried to stop it. Alluding to the knowledge of bats and certain viruses was known about years before, and researching the possibilities this would bring.
In the beginning, I felt drawn into this story-line, a faint hint of menace lurks within the first few chapters. Gabriel (the author) sets the scene connecting past and present events to why a group decides to carry out a catastrophic plot on such a grand scale.
It is an interesting way the book is set up with an index page of chapters and chapter titles resembling a nonfiction set up. However, with only 155 pages, I was a bit skeptical of how much was going to be covered. Gabriel provides a very detailed history of the ruthlessness of China, the locations in China, and the military games.
There is a lot of dialogue and just telling you things, instead of drawing you in with suspense. In my opinion, there is too much focus on the mundane activities of the characters, instead of chucking me right into the muck.
Due to the story being quite short it might have benefited from reducing some of those mundane elements, and focus on the relevance of the part the characters play, and draw me in with their revelations.
One of my gripes I have with this book is the genre it is put under. It is under thriller/suspense, yet, the writing does not provide much of either. It reads almost like a non-fiction piece with some dialogue thrown in. There is a lot of interesting facts about China, the Mongols and their background, the games, and other tidbits, like where the swastika originated from. It just prevents the story from being particularly riveting.
Character build-up of practically every character is the main focus. The research and acquisition of a sample of the virus takes a back seat to the characters. There is a bit of action interwoven by a few chases from the ‘bad guys’. At times I had to re-read certain parts to try to discover why the characters were actually targeted in the first place.
I think the historical aspects and the ‘facts’ holds the story together.
The ending was more plausible than I thought it would be. A very gradual build-up leading to a likely scenario did improve the overall arc. When I thought the motive was going one way, it went another way. Which is always refreshing to see in a ‘thriller’.
I quite liked how the author wrote out a fact or fiction section, where he breaks down each chapter’s factual bits.
That is why this feels more like a drama with real life events thrown in, rather than an edgy thriller.
I wouldn’t say this book is bad. The writer has clearly put a lot of research in this and perhaps interwoven some personal experience. It is just not a suspenseful read.
Personally, what I would have liked to read is how the virus was released, then it slowly entails the spread while they try to solve who did it.
Utilizing the same characters, just creating more moments of tension by going into the mystery of how it got out, and spreading throughout the populace.