It was all going so well. Bobby Reynolds leaves Canada and travels halfway round the world to begin a new life with Sally in Northern Ireland. They have a nice house in Carrickfergus, good jobs and are looking forward to starting a family. But out in the world, a tipping-point has been reached. A devastating new disease emerges in a Vietnamese town called Quang-Tri. Suddenly, it is no longer far away, or on the news; it is outside in the street. With frightening speed, the familiar, the cherished are all stripped away. Northern Ireland teeters on the brink, then collapses into bloodshed and violence. Bobby, suddenly a stranger in a foreign country, quickly discovers that there are worse things than Quang-Tri Flu.
Sally and Bobby have just moved into their dream house on the outskirts of Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. Meeting Sally had changed Bobby’s life completely, bringing him from his native Canada across the world to somewhere that had not even been on his radar. He is looking forward to his new job as a lecturer in engineering and he and Sally are socializing and getting to know their new neighbours. Then reports begin to filter through on the radio and TV. The outbreak of a new strain of flu in the far east.
As the summer progresses the reports become more frequent and increasingly urgent, all downplayed to the point of deliberate untruths, by the government. It turns out the Quang-Tri flu is deadly and spreads like wildfire. If the disease is caught, it kills, there is no cure. The frightening part is the infection can be passed on even before an individual is aware they’re sick. It only takes one person unknowingly mingling in a crowd to spread the disease to thousands, which then multiplies even more…
There was talk of the flu spreading to Hong Kong and Shanghai. Neither of these massive cities were strangers to disease. I’d seen it for myself in Hong Kong with their facemasks and the notices on buses declaring that the vehicle would be routinely disinfected. Even there, the rumours said, the authorities couldn’t cope. It wasn’t long before the government in London was forced to issue assurances that no cases had occurred in the UK. They said that the World Health Organisation was near to completing a vaccine. There were more than adequate stocks of anti-viral drugs.
The very realistic and gritty storyline is vividly described in chilling detail. The fallout after a catastrophe of such immense proportions is horrendous. As the survivors attempt to find loved ones, a place of safety and to just stay alive from one day to the next, their ever-changing situations and feelings are illustrated extremely well. Their world is falling apart and, living in constant fear and with the lack of everything they took for granted, the situation brings out the absolute worst, and occasionally the best, in people. There are those who will go to any lengths, and do whatever it takes to survive.
It’s a grim scenario with looted and burnt out houses everywhere, stripped of anything and everything, and people killing each other indiscriminately. Trouble in one form or another, could and often does, happen at any given moment, painting a stark picture of an apocalyptic world where nothing is as it was. There are some lighter moments and a small number of people who manage to mostly hold fast to their values and principles as much as they can under the circumstances. All in all, a really good and very thought-provoking read. John Privilege is definitely an author to watch.
I reviewed this book as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team