cover image Plague Year

Plague Year

Jeff Carlson, . . Ace, $7.99 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-441-01514-6

This tiresome sci-fi thriller debut, set in postapocalyptic California, has an ingenious kickoff that unfortunately goes nowhere fast. Following the accidental release of a deadly nanotechnology (designed to fight cancer), much of the world’s population is dead; in the California Sierras, above the plague’s high-water mark (10,000 feet), Cameron Najarro, Albert Sawyers and their small group of survivors eke out a desperate living, turning to cannibalism for survival. Meanwhile, in the International Space Station Dr. Ruth Ann Goldman and her team are making progress on a vaccine. Things go bad quickly when Goldman and her team return to Earth to test a hypothesis: first, they crash land in the middle of a civil war, then they find that the military has its own plans for the vaccine. When the astronauts and mountain survivors finally meet up, Goldman is surprised to find valuable allies in Sawyers and Najarro, and the three set off with a few others to find a lost lab that may hold the key to stopping the nano menace. The timely idea may hold readers’ interest, but only so far as their patience allows; though well-written, the heroes’ lengthy journeys slow the story to a pace almost as tormenting as organ-liquefying micro-machines. (Aug.)