The Flu tells the tale of a pandemic flu attack on the world, tracing its origin at a remote Alaskan scientific outpost to where it rapidly spreads across the globe, though the story more specifically zeroes in on the United States, and even more particularly on a small town in northeast Ohio, Lodi, which is not tremendously far from Cleveland. The story focuses on Mick, the Sheriff in town and his surrogate family, which consists of the woman he is secretly dating, Dylan, and her three sons. Sam, Dylan’s husband, who she is divorcing, is attempting to reconcile with her at the same time. The lives of this family come into focus as Lodi goes under the magnifying glass because of the return of one of the world’s most renowned virologists, Lars Rayburn, who lives in Lodi one month out of the year, spending the rest of his time studying strains of the flu and other plagues in Madagascar. As this flu, which has a death rate up around 90%, plows across the country and the globe, Lars decides that with the help of the government that he will shut off Lodi and attempt to create a safe haven away from the flu, one where he will be prepared to deal with it when it comes, and will do his best to block it off from ever hitting the town.
The book devotes a goodly amount of early pages on the spread of the flu, and as is the case throughout this tale, we are given the personal stories of those who are exposed to it and are dealing with the pain and anguish it brings. The Flu seems like a tidal wave, smashing into everything, giving it a sense of inevitability. Some survive, though most do not-at least not until it surrounds Lodi. The harsh reality is that the best that seems can be done is to wait until this plague dies out on its own-it spreads, it infects, it kills, and then the flu dissipates, leaving behind approximately 5% of the former population. The author does do a good job of crafting characters that you grow attached to, and can appreciate-the normal, everyday people of the town of Lodi, including the main characters who are just trying to survive and keep the town safe. I think the strongest, most potent parts of this story were when these people were interacting with each other and trying to go on with their lives despite everything happening around them. These two main components of this tale-the inevitability of the flu and the development of characters we care about-bring things to a head in the homestretch of the book.
I enjoyed this tale, and feel that the author did a bang up job crafting a plausible pandemic scenario and also created characters that you care about and are hoping manage to survive, though you suspect from the beginning that it is unlikely that all of them will survive, and there will be plenty of heartbreak. As far as issues I had with the story, I would say a minor one was some of the typos and editing issues, though they were ones I could certainly live with. If I were to state that I had a real issue with things, it wouldn’t be something that I could exactly pinpoint in the story itself. I think it would be more along the lines of the pacing. As I said, the flu moves with a certain amount of inevitability-which means that it seemed that the surprises in this story were few and far between for me-things happen because the flu is going to bulldoze everything in its pathway, and it does so at a relatively slow pace. The story, in turn, moves at that pace as well, taking about half its pages to really move it along to where it started to get really interesting for me. I can understand and appreciate all that came in the first half of the book, but again, I would have been happier with a faster pace up to that point. Even with that said, I give credit where credit is due, and the author deserves a lot for crafting a realistic and intriguing pandemic tale that had characters inhabiting the story that felt real and compelling, which, in the end, made the build up well worth it.
The Flu can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Flu-Jacqueline-Druga-Johnston/dp/1885093489/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329959697&sr=8-1
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