Glasgow 2025. Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a young man with a mild fever. within three hours he dies. The mysterious illness sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. The victims are all men.
This is how is begins.
Dr Maclean raises the alarm, but the sickness spreads to every corner of the globe. Threatening families. Governments. Countries.
Can they find a cure before it’s too late? Will this be the story of the end of the world – or its salvation?
Despite the late hour I find myself unwilling to leave this review until the morning – I feel like it is best written while still in a state of absolute shell shock.
What on earth did I just read?!
I got the book on impulse, having recently finished ‘The Pull Of The Stars’ ( Book Review: The Pull Of The Stars by Emma Donoghue ) and being intruiged by the blurb – I had hoped to get a similar level of feels and insights inspired by the previous read, but I find myself unable to make a fair comparison to anything I have previously read.
My strongest reaction to this book is probably one of gratitude, which will seem like an odd reaction, but the raw emotion that Christina Sweeney-Baird imbues her story with is both liberating and refreshing. I can do nothing but applaud her for it. I’ve spent a large portion of time around unfiltered grief and anger through my work and remember them all the more clearly for having just relived them through this book. She has written the emotions to a tee and I am overwhelmingly impressed. How many people can write anger that succinctly? Grief? Helplessness?
I also adored the liberty she gave her characters to feel, and to express, and the refusal to deny their feelings. She writes a catastrophe and then fills the human experience in such a way that you can see it and feel it right in front of you. It is magnificent to behold. In the Harry Potter books Hermione congratulates Ron on having the emotional range of a teaspoon – I find myself mentally browsing the kitchen cupboards trying to decide which item is likely to contain the greatest volume, and therefore is worthy to be compared to the author.
As the story moves forwards I was intruiged and astounded by the considerations and complexitites of a changing society – I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I do advise you to go and read it. The perspective of different characters throughout the book helps to make a rounded and multi-faceted tale of destruction and recovery, with some long-standing voices and some who flit in for a single chapter then flit out again. The different aspects of society chosen by the author to voice their very different experiences of the same calamity give an insight into human nature which I found both humbling and appealing on a very deep level.
Now to the crux of the matter – Was this written about our current pandemic? Apparently not. The author note at the beginning states that she started writing it in September 2018, finishing it in June 2019. The authors note was written in April 2020, a year before publication. Part of me wonders how much of a chance she had to go through and add a few bits here and there to make it more relatable to the current situation – there are mentions of social distancing, panic buying etc. I certainly would have in her shoes. The other part of me works through the logistics of re-writing your book with that little notice and brushes the thought aside as needlessly cynical. Perhaps those parts of how we react to a crisis really are that predictable. Though I find myself unendingly thankful that we do not live in the future that is imagined in this book – the odds were far more dire than our current troubles.