The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on Amazon.com. I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at rohlarik@gmail.com. I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

the X VARIANT

The author sent me a copy of her novel to review:

When the author, Rosemary Cole, said her novel would be a post-apocalyptic/time travel/zombie novel, I thought no way. She did accomplish that, but I think that it would have been a smoother trip without the time travel part. Couldn’t they (the Unathi) figure out a cure for the zombie-like virus without going back in time? For that matter, couldn’t the author come up with a better name for the surviving human race of the future other than Unathi...how do you pronounce that? (I’m being picky) Mutating viruses in novels are not new. I wonder if the author got some of her ideas from Michael Crichton. Crichton’s Andromeda Strain (1969) deals with a out of control virus that mutates. And Crichton’s Prey (2002) deals with the nanoswarm similar to Cole’s dronet. If she did read the Crichton novels to get ideas...kudos to her. I can’t think of two better novels to read to gain insight to the future scientific world without boring the reader to death with technical hodgepodge. Rosemary Cole gave the reader just enough technical information to understand what was going on. More importantly she gave the reader (in my opinion) an original story with three dissimilar predicaments in the same novel...well done Rosemary.  

It’s 2616 and life on earth is utopian. Humans have evolved into a super post-apocalyptic being known as the Unathi after a virus notoriously called SHAV (synthetic hemorrhagic airborne virus) almost wiped out earth’s population in 2079. Originally SHAV was created to cure cancer, then unwisely used as a weapon against the United Islamic States...later it mutated into a worldwide killer. The new human model known as the Unathi knows no violence. The current human of 2616 was of the old flesh and bone version combined with a symbiont and undetectable drones. What? Okay, I’ll let our main character, Kala, explain what they are, as she answers a question on how she can detect people, if they are around or not, from a human of the 2079 past, “My symbiont lets me do that,” explained Kala. At his blank stare, she went on. “I am Unathi. We are a symbiotic race, two combined species dependent upon each other - human host and symbiont. Our symbionts evolved from the SHA virus over hundreds of years. It produces drones inside our bodies that can tell us where objects or living things are in our vicinity. They can also pacify humans.” She almost said “or kill them,” but stopped herself just in time. Do you see how easily you can understand the science in this novel without all the technical jargon? Simple and to the point.

Anyhow, The 2616 Unathi rarely had any health issues; that’s why it was a surprise when some of the population developed problems with their drones and the Dronet that connected everyone directly mentality. “Every Unathi individual was carefully engineered (They have careparents, not a mom and dad) in a science that had developed over the centuries since the pandemic, selecting the most desirable genetic material from around the globe...but now there was something wrong. People’s drones had stopped functioning, and no one knew why.” Our heroine, Kala (who has a sentient symbiont and is stronger and faster than the rest of the Unathi’s, but is smaller in stature), was meeting her bondmate (apparently Unathi’s don’t get married), Liet, for lunch at a nearby open-roofed dining room. Liet seemed troubled over what was going on. “Kala fully expected someone to figure out what was going on and make the disappearances stop (people were disappearing from all over North America), but they went on and on...she heard their cries on the Dronet.” Suddenly a man in the dining room started to breathe heavily. Unexpectedly, Kala’s drones couldn’t feel him, it was like he was a animal. His eyes bugged out, bared his teeth and attacked a woman near him. He was killing her, but since the Unathi knew no violence in their utopian world, no one knew how to help her. Kala and Liet ran for their lives. They ran to the airtrain station. A woman on the train turns on a man, sinking her teeth into his neck. The woman had mutated into what’s called a Xin (a X-person, later called a ghal) causing her to become a killer. Kala, Liet and some passengers they met on the train are forced to jump off the train or face death. They are badly hurt from the jump, but the symbionts in their bodies quickly healed their broken bones and other severe injuries.

Afterwards, Kala and the train survivors find a woman who was building a hovering device. They attach it to a floating barge and look for food. They find a rooftop where a holocast conference for the living is just starting. The main speaker is a scientist named Wilm. “Greetings, he said. I am Wilm. I know you’re all thinking that there’s no hope. And you’re right, there is none-not for us personally. But there is hope of saving our kind. Please listen to what I have to say.” He explains that the 2079 virus mutated into different strains. The epsilon strain was flawed and these genes are latent. “We don’t know why they’ve suddenly switched on now, but that’s what has happened in the symbionts of the Xin, and we have the X-variant mutant as a result.” So what’s next? “However, we did discover something we didn’t know: there is one strain that doesn’t have the genetic flaw. Beta has no flaw, Wilm said, Beta is perfect.” Okay, how can they defeat this virus and survive as a race? Alright I will tell you and end this teaser...what happens later is worth the price of this novel. “Now, you’re probably wondering what this discovery can do for us. Well, it can’t save us personally, but it might save the Unathi race. As luck-or fate-would have it, after decades of work my colleagues and I have just completed testing a device for faster-than-light space travel...we are now attempting to convert that technology to time travel, and I believe it will work. If we can go back to 2079 and change the past, we have a chance to save the Unathi.”

Wilm believes that if they go back to 2079 and kill all the humans that have the epsilon strain and protect all the people that have the Beta strain, the future will change and the current virus of 2616 would never have happened. Wow, what a story. But since the Unathi are nonviolent, will they be able to kill? If they succeed, will they be able to get back to 2616? What happens if they don’t succeed? What if Wilm’s theory is wrong? Okay, I covered the first 67 pages, now you will have to read the next 234 pages to find out what happens. By the way, this is only book one of a planned trilogy...book two will be out in 2018. As I said in the first paragraph, Rosemary Cole would have had an easier time writing this novel if she would have left the time travel part out, nevertheless she triumphed big-time on her own accord. Get your copy of this exciting novel now...you will be glad you did.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I loved the two Michael Crichton novels, but my favorite mutated virus novel is a Stephen King’s novel, The Stand (1978). I read the novel in 1978, so I never got to review the novel on my site (I would have to reread the novel...it’s too long to do that again) because I started my review site in 2010. But I’ll tell you what Goodreads.com and Amazon.com said about King’s novel:

Goodreads.com says: This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

Amazon.com says: Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.

A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge-Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.

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