Top critical review
Interesting story and amazingly detailed scientific information tied together with ham-fisted writing
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 6, 2018
First off, there is an incredible amount of information packed in this book, especially the nearly infinite details on pathogens, their histories, the flow of them from one host to another, the difficulty of containment, and so on. The amount of research performed and sheer scientific knowledge of the author is on full display.
That said, the writing itself leaves a lot to be desired. Stock characters, clichéd situations, and ham-fisted content composition attempt to hold all the painstaking research together. Sometimes it works, but oftentimes it feels like a poorly-constructed high school research paper where facts are connected by the very loosest of threads.
Too much of the book is inauthentic dialogue and self-reflection that is used to pass along even more scientific, historic, or other background information. But it doesn’t flow well from a writing composition standpoint, and so much of the dialogue feels stilted and forced. These are not humans holding regular conversations, but rather clunky, formulaic, rote expositions.
There are several photos and illustrations in the book. However, not a single one adds to the story, and all violate the golden rule of “show, don’t tell.” Each photo seems like an afterthought, added because the author thinks a science fiction thriller is required to have them. Either remove the images, or don’t explain every single detail in them.
Like the images, too often the book beats you over the head with repetitive information or bloats the content with unnecessary details. Then the story ends without a resolution (and barely a climax), one of the fundamental parts of any proper tale. Yes, it’s designed to lead us on to the next book. But there are ways to wrap up this part of the story, so in this regard it completely fails.
There’s a fairly entertaining story buried here, one that’s rather terrifying in its realism and potential to be among tomorrow’s headlines. However, the glue holding it together often makes it feel as if you’re reading a page of elementary school macaroni art—generic, lifeless objects thrown haphazardly together in an attempt to make a sensible whole. It’s as if Michael Crichton and his crew performed the research and developed the story, but E.L. James wrote the words.