Review of Steven Konkoly’s “The Jakarta Pandemic”
Alex Fletcher is a marine who left active duty eight years ago and is now a pharmaceutical rep with a bit of paranoia about the latest impending pandemic flu assault. The year is 2013, and he has vivid memories of the pandemic of ’08 and the less noteworthy panic that occurred in ’12 after a swine flu outbreak. Since he works for a pharma company that provides one of the leading flu treatments, it is essentially his job to pay attention to all the reports on how bad this new outbreak is likely to be. That plus the fact that he spends much of his time with doctors who deal with infectious diseases on a regular basis, he is hunkering down for what amounts to the viral equivalent of World War III.
Alex is paranoid, and under regular circumstances might be considered somewhat of a flake. He suffers from post traumatic stress after his time in Iraq, and his house is set up with all the fixin’s to prepare him for a long hold out against the flu with food, water, his own power supplies, and plenty of guns and ammo. His plan is simple: isolate himself and his family from everyone else and they will make it through the flu outbreak just fine, even as the world crumbles around them. Yep, Alex would be probably a bit wacky if it wasn’t for the fact that he is absolutely right about what is about to go down.
And despite Alex’s unheeded warnings to his neighbors to isolate themselves, stock up on food and water, things do go bad rather quickly for them, with food not getting delivered to grocery stores, hospitals getting filled up with flu patients, sickness running rampant and a danger of the power grid going out since less and less people are monitoring and maintaining it. Essentially, Alex has predicted a crash of catastrophic proportions, and that is exactly what happens. And with it, the natives get restless and turn their ire toward the most prepared member of their community. Alex has good intentions, but refuses to be sucked into communal expectations that he play ball and share all his food and every last flu treatment he held on to before quitting his pharmaceutical job. On top of that, scavengers have moved into Alex’s upscale suburban neighborhood in a desperate attempt to find food and shelter as riots and overall madness have driven them out of the bigger cities, and they are even more dangerous than the neighbors.
The Jakarta Pandemic is a well laid out story of one man’s quest to keep his family safe during a devastating assault on their existence. I read a lot of apocalyptic fiction, and while this doesn’t quite tip over into the realm of apocalyptic, it gives us a hefty dose of how the apocalypse could realistically occur in our world. It does share some similarities with some of the other stories I read in that genre in that it shows how desperate people can become, and how hard the choices are when your family is at stake and so is your survival. Alex reminds me of one of those guys on message boards who talks about how they’re prepared for the end of the world, whether it be by natural disaster, plague, or even zombies.
The action sequences are compelling in this book, though I wish there was more of them, and more drawn out tension between the main character and the people who confront him. A lot of the tale is spent with the build up to the pandemic and the slow, boring days Alex and his family spend cloistered inside their home. We are given only one perspective-Alex’s, and only find out what is happening to the outside world through his observations of the news on TV and via the internet. It does help provide a sort of closed off perspective, because we as readers know nothing more than Alex does from minute to minute about what is happening in the wider world or even outside his house as they get buried deeper and deeper into the Maine winter. Still, I did feel that parts of the story dragged and did wish for more of a psychological thriller showcasing more people like Todd, Alex’s on edge neighbor, and the man Alex dubs “Manson”. I felt like the scenes where Alex was dealing with them crackled with energy and craved more of that in this story.
The bottom line is that this was a well thought out, entertaining story, though I was left wanting more interaction between Alex and his key rivals. It is my understanding that this story was recently re-edited, so the typographical issues prior reviewers on Amazon brought up didn’t deflect from the story too much for me. The only real issue I had was when the author slips into present tense on occasion, which was a distraction when the rest of the time he sticks with the traditional past tense. Otherwise, the story kept my interest and was an enjoyable read about an intriguing subject that had a bitter and frightening dose of realism to it.
You can get The Jakarta Pandemic here: http://www.amazon.com/Jakarta-Pandemic-Steven-Konkoly/dp/1456309501/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1309311567&sr=1-1