* * *
For two years between March 1918 and June 1920, the Spanish Flu spread around the world and took between 50-100 million lives. Some have speculated that it had an impact on the result of World War I. Some have further speculated that the Nazis began experimenting for biological warfare in the 30’s and 40’s, using influenza as one of their test viruses.
In Paul McCusker and Dr. Walt Larimore’s novel The Influenza Bomb, this issue is revisited in our present day. An eco-terrorist group called Return to Earth has resurrected and enhanced the Spanish Flu, making it even more lethal than the original. Their plan is to virally wipe out all human life on Earth, as we have (in their eyes) made ourselves illegitimate caretakers of the planet through our poor stewardship of the world.
The National Institutes of Health dispatches a special team of scientists, doctors, techno-geeks and investigators to fight this terrorist plot. They’re from the Historical Research and Data Development department, also known as “TSI” (a wink to a popular television program). Using the history of past medical incidents, they’re able to investigate their way to the solution of their current problem. In this case, they need to stop Return to Earth and their influenza virus before the destruction of the human race.
Authors Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore, MD bring to their work a wonderful blend of Hollywood-style action, with realistic science to back up the plot. Many of the historical scenarios they present truly happened, which make the fictional crimes of Return to Earth seem all the more urgent. Given the proper circumstances and conditions, a catastrophe like this could break out in our contemporary world. With our almost effortless ability to transport people (possible virus carriers) around the globe within a day or two, it’s a blessing that our world is as healthy as it is today.
I enjoyed The Influenza Bomb. It took me back to the mid-90’s when I read the book The Hot Zone by Richard Preston and saw the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo. McCusker’s scriptwriting talent came through, giving the story an excitement that always kept the pages turning. Dr. Larimore’s medical knowledge gave the details of the epidemic veracity as the characters strove to combat their visible and invisible foes.
I also enjoyed the writing device of frequent flashbacks to previous decades, showing the background of the current conflict within the context of world history. Characters and present-day events could be traced back almost 100 years. Artifacts from decades gone by provided keys necessary for TSI to continue their investigations. Choices made in the 1940’s had direct consequences in the present day.
McCusker & Larimore’s characters were interesting, although I didn’t find myself caring about them as much as I would have liked. It seemed as if each character was just a chess piece, moving about alone and in concert with other characters to a decisive end. While this novel is certainly not a relationship piece, a bit more character development would have helped with this. However, there are so many roles in this story (a few too many, in my opinion), I don’t know how more character development could have been accomplished without weighing down or impeding the story.
As the authors are Christians, they did infuse a bit of their faith into the story line. It wasn’t terribly overt, but the theme of forgiveness was presented in the lives of some of their characters. This lesson applies to those of many faiths, so non-Christians may not be too disturbed by this content. It’s certainly a concept that all of us need to apply to our lives.
On a side note: The Influenza Bomb follows the TSI novel The Gabon Virus. Although I haven’t read Gabon, this issue wasn’t alienating. There were several mentions of individuals and events from the previous book, but they weren’t very consequential. If anything, those moments made me want to pick up The Gabon Virus sometime.
If you’re looking for an entertaining and thought-provoking thriller, The Influenza Bomb makes for an amusing summer read.
This title was provided to me by Glass Road PR. No obligation other than an honest review was required.