Review: “Plague Year” by Jeff Carlson

indexPlague Year (The Plague Year Trilogy Book 1) by Jeff Carlson. 346 pages. JVE Books.

I’ve read a lot of dystopian novels over the past few years, and admittedly, there are a lot to choose from. Part of the reason is because they are so popular in the YA genre, and for a while I was writing YA books, such as my dystopian telling of Pilgrim’s Progress entitled Infinity’s Reach. But part of the reason I have read so many has to do with my belief in the Second Coming of Christ, and what I believe will be the events leading up to it. That’s a real-life dystopian event that no one can really predict, even though many, many authors have tried.

The bad part that I have found recently in reading dystopian novels is that with all the doom and gloom, there is very little optimism. I tend to look for a glimmer of hope in the darkness. I paint my dark portrait so that a hero can emerge. It is only when we have true darkness that we can appreciate the dawn.

The only problem is, a spirit of nihilism has come into our society these days. People believe less and less that there is a solution. That is an important point that should be a clarion call for writers, especially Christian writers. Hope is what we offer when all other have given up. But let’s save that discussion for another day.

In reading Plague Year, I was concerned that I had fallen into the trap of nihilism. The first half of the book is dark–very, very dark–and I almost gave up hope. But I decided to continue on with the story, and it got better. The story has to do with nanobots that are released from a lab in northern California, which then take over the world. Every animal–including people–below an elevation of 10,000 feet is consumed from the inside out. The only way to survive is to run, like the people of Noah’s time, to the tops of the mountains. A handful of people in California’s Sierras and in Colorado are what is left of the United States. They do unspeakable things to survive that first winter. When the spring thaw comes, they are able to connect with each other, and they learn that there may be a solution.

Despite the dark beginning, Carlson does a pretty good job of portraying the two main characters, Cam, a ski instructor in California, and Ruth, a scientist on the International Space Station. The first half of the story talks about each of them in turn as they struggle with various aspects of the plague. But it’s when they finally come together, via a man Cam finds who claims to have been involved in the development of the nanobots, that the story really takes off. At the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish it. At the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to stop.

Plague Year is the first story in a three-part series. I have several other books I plan on reading in the next few months. But I am seriously considering coming back for more to find out what happens.

I give it four stars out of five.