Pandemic is the first book in A. G. Riddle’s new Extinction Flies series of books. The author is best known for his previous works involving The Origin Mystery series (Atlantis Gene); a series I own but have not yet listened too. I found this book difficult to review because it really depends on your expectations of books belonging to this genre. Hopefully this review helps you to better decide if this is the right book for you or not. It is a rather long book, so this review may be longer also.
I will say, I enjoyed the book’s narration performed by Edoardo Ballerini and for a book of this size there were very few audio related issues; discussed later in the review. If mystery and suspense is a genre you gravitate towards, and if you are a person who enjoys deeply-written stories having complex characters, multiple plot lines, and numerous flash-backs, I believe you will find this story hits all these qualities. Being it is the first book in the series, it is understandable that this book is used to setup the background details on an unraveling bigger story. As a stand-alone book, it is enjoyable if not somewhat long. However, I believe all the details the author sets up in this book will only enhance what is to follow in the rest of the series.
Many reviewers have complained that this book could have been half its size and still told the same story. Let me say that in a generation where microwave or instant gratification literature is mandated, I think the author did a much better job of allowing the reader to marinate or stew on the text by making the book as large and ambitious as this one is. Because this book is only the first in a series, I would not recommend it for those who do not like waiting for the next to come out, this is the only one currently available on Audible at the time of this review. This book ends with a rather large cliffhanger, so if you do not like that in a series, wait before grabbing it until more are released.
Let me say the book is big, and I mean 696 pages (or nearly 19 hours of audio) big. Could the book have been smaller and still told the same story, in some ways yes; but we do not know the author’s intentions and how the events in this book potentially affect all future books. It is not a quick read, or a book for those who are seeking a light thriller to compete in a single setting. Not at all. This book is complex in its development of both plot and characters. It is how a story is to be told, and not just something thrown together for a quick dollar. It makes me think of the difference between a fast-food hamburger compared to a filet minion. If you are simply looking to eat only hamburgers, this book is not for you. Instead, if you like richer and finer stories, you may want to give this one a try. I found it interesting to see how all over the place other reviews are on this book. You either love it or hate it, it seems. Sometimes that is a good thing and shows that this book resonates with some readers but not others. I liked that the author both opens and closes the book with scenes of intense action and drama. The whole book is not all action, as some may desire, but there is a good amount keeping the story flowing.
I want to say that this genre of book (world pandemics) is not my preferred one, but I found that I enjoy the complexity and believability because much of what is covered in the book is something that could happen; even today. The book contained a fair amount of action, intrigue, and fear that kept me listening to the end. As the book progresses, you begin to see how the characters and their involvement all converge giving you the “Ah ha” moment. I liked the descriptive nature of the author’s writing along with what seems to be rather solid research of many topics. The book includes computers, hacking, nanotechnology, viruses, genetics, pharmaceuticals, travel to distance word locations, and by the end; piles of dead bodies. For a few of the more technical/computer aspects, I would have liked to seen the author provide more detail. For many, you will also get a few laughs while listening by the author’s inclusion of “vintage” technology; Circuit City, Computer Shopper Magazine, and GeoCities. The nostalgia alone kept me laughing and wanting more.
Pandemics can be complex, difficult and scary events which I’m not sure the book did enough to express. The focus was mostly on the main characters and not as much on the world and its reaction to his devastating and earth-shattering event. There were a few instances where rioting and body counts were mentioned, but often theses seemed to be less emphasized as I would have liked. I cared about the story’s characters, but I also wanted to care for all those who were suffering not directly involved with the main event itself. The book showed how information sharing and communication with the public can be difficult in a time like these. Too much sharing of information could cause riots where not enough sharing permits the virus to spread. Again, a very complicated and sensitive topic for such events. I will say that the book always has you questioning what can and will be done next.
As stated earlier, the characters are complex and the author does a good job of telling their backstories using flashbacks, etc. We really see who and what molded them into the people they became and why they were so focused or involved with the outbreak. It may come as no surprise that most of these characters had experienced hard lives growing up. Not only is there good dialogue and interaction, the book includes some light romance; including one scene that parents and younger readers may want to be aware of. The scene is not used in a salacious way, but simply to show two of the characters growing closer in their focused goals. You will be able to see how one’s priorities and desires change due to the virus occurrence. I did want to also address a few who complained that the author placed references in the book to Audible, etc. I myself did not see these as a blatant advertisement (which they may have been) as some suggested, but more meta for those who are listening to the book using Audible; I found it more humorous than anything else.
Edoardo Ballerini is not new to audiobook narration with over one-hundred and fifty other titles available (at the time of this review) on Audible; I have listened to a few of his other works. The narrator did an excellent job narrating the multiple characters, accents, and genders. Not once did I have an issue with his voicing of any of the characters. Overall the audio was clean and professionally done. I will continue to find other books by this narrator for future audiobooks. Just as a side note, the book’s publisher is Audible Studios. I mention this as I was a bit surprised to hear about ten places where the book’s audio appeared patched or plugged. This may have been because the book was still being edited while the audiobook was in the production process. I found the patches noticeable, but not enough to prevent someone from listening to the book. Just be aware that you will know they are their when you listen. Again, with this being a rather large book, one assumes a few audio plugs or other hiccups may be expected.
For younger readers or parents, let me say the author does an exception job of telling a story without having to throw in vulgar language. I can say that I do not remember one vulgar word used while listening to the book; however, in a book this size, I may have missed one or two. I can say the book contains far fewer uses of vulgar language than other books in the genre. As mentioned above, there is a slight romantic scene with light sexual topics covered. Nothing that would rank the book more than a PG-13 movie.
So, would I recommend this book? I would to people who want a deep experience focused on the main plot and characters with little in the way of bigger picture. I enjoyed the book, the technology, and the pace and will listen to the rest in the series when they become available. If you are one who likes quick and concise stories, this book is not for you.