Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Glen E. Page - The Last Plague (book review)

"The Last Plague" (Amazon: US, UK)
by Glen E. Page
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Publisher: Synergy Books
A young girl is brought into Dr. Douglas Hunter's ER one night with her abdomen ripped open. One of her ovaries has been stolen; the other is as hard and black as coal. When the bodies of more young girls are discovered, their ovaries also missing, Dr. Hunter and his family of adopted misfits find themselves unwittingly drawn into a dark plot of government intrigue and biblical prophecy. As Dr. Hunter investigates the cause behind this mysterious plague, he and his family uncover unsettling connections, not only between their own painful pasts, but to war crimes in Nazi germany and even events from the days of Christ. The investigation attracts the attention of a group of ruthless people with mysterious powers who are determined to keep the plague a secret. But as more secrets come to light, Dr. Hunter realizes his family may be facing the last plague, the beginnings of the Apocalypse.

I've already mentioned a few times that I like post-apocalyptic fiction. That was one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, why I accepted to review “The Last Plague”. To be honest, I thought it could be a great book when I first saw it – a nice enough cover (not as ‘suspicious’ as, let's say, "Unholy Domain”) and although the killer-plague idea itself has been done to death, it does not necessarily mean that the book is completely unoriginal. I like to read about plagues. Too bad it turned out that “The Last Plague” has (almost) nothing to do with a plague whatsoever.

When I turned the first page, I already found myself fully engaged in a certain happening. Wait, what? I checked the cover again to make sure that it was really the first book in the series. It was. For the next couple of chapters nothing changes, everything’s a total mess. It’s true that sometimes, it’s good to plunge into the middle of action right away, but I rather see that the book starts ‘slow and easy’, keeping things more or less clear and straightforward. I doubt that any reader likes to be (and stay) confused from the beginning on, having absolutely no idea what’s going on and who is who. For me, at least, it was damn annoying. I kept mixing the names of the demons and the doctors, and when I somehow managed to sort out the names of the former, the latter remained a bunch of unconnected names right up until enough of them died that I could distinguish between the ones that remain. I believe that the editor of “The Last Plague” could do much to improve this (especially in the beginning); it seems to me as though some parts were just skipped where editing is concerned. Sometimes, names are being needlessly repeated over and over again, even the sentences seem identical and piled one over the other (see the below example).
"Hey Indian, ever hear of pheromones?"
"Nah," Indian answered, but Indian's gaze just caught sight of something else in the distance.


Cautiously she walked down the hall to the staircase. Hurriedly she climbed the steps to the empty surgical suites one floor above. Gently she opened the double doors leading to one of the suites.
But the main problem of the book is that there are great many characters trying to do great many things. The good guys being two doctors, their friends and families (including a number of people who used to work with the army intelligence, a Native American named Indian (but of course) who is literally a killing machine, one Mexican – once upon a time a monk – everybody laughs at, a supposedly dead wife, and two kids: a boy – the 'chosen one' - and an African girl that carries the plague), Mountain People who are rarely, if ever, seen, a guy that can heal with the touch of his hands, a guy who claims to be one of the 11 Apostles, and a group of Jewish people (I’m not really certain what their role is, but they are involved nonetheless).
I’m pretty sure there is an Asian or two I’ve somehow managed to miss. Where’s the point of skipping them, if you’ve included all of the other races?

The bad guys are a bit simpler to discern: they seem to represent every single person with authority (except for one sheriff) that the good guys manage to encounter. The most notable among them are the military and a certain cult, whose members believe to be Lucifer’s adopted children. The latter group contains those that infected humanity with a virus that causes ovaries to blacken. The leaders of this cult is someone named Niac (later in the book a ‘shocking’ detail is revealed: his true name, in fact, is Cain). There is not much of actual fighting between the good and the bad; the good are mostly fleeing, trying to survive and to figure out what the virus that causes black ovaries really is. And, of course, the good and the bad are so tightly intertwined that you can’t be really certain who is working with whom (and the fact that some of the people change their mind somewhere in the middle of the book doesn’t help much). Once again, it is a complete mess.

Wait! Did I mention that the good guys are in fact chosen by God? Somewhere in the last part of the book, everything shifts from a simple ‘run away, they’re trying to kill us’ gig to a sanctimonious mission. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not overly fond of books that are trying to convince me that God exists, and that He has a Plan. If the author convenes religious beliefs in inoffensive and unobtrusive manner (King did this in “The Stand” and it was perfectly digestible) or turn it in a underlying message, that's perfectly fine with me - but don’t drop it fervently right on top of my head. Just for example, I loved “The Book of Joby” (even if by that time I didn’t know that Book of Job really is about a bet between the God and the Devil – but that only made me love "The Book of Joby" more after I found out); those of you who read it know that there is a lot of religious content included. I usually don’t mind this, as long as it doesn’t take on a persuasive note, and that, unfortunately, is exactly what “The Last Plague” did.

As said, there is hardly any mention of an actual plague. There is some speculation about the origins of 'the black ovaries' virus, but the good guys are too preoccupied with surviving – miraculously, might I add – to give much thought to why-s, where-s and how-s. I couldn’t really discern much signs of apocalypse, but there is a lot of talk about military secrets and army intelligence and so on, and that brings to a fact that “The Last Plague” is more of a thriller than anything else. But even so, it’s a badly written one. There is practically nothing to draw the reader to read on or to make him care for the characters, but the flaws regarding style or plot are present aplenty, luring you to put the book down.

The only thing that saves “The Last Plague” from being an utterly unreadable drivel are the parts of the book where nothing “extraordinary” is happening (e.g. when a whole family gets down to take a dinner) and much of it is based on dialogue and humor. These parts are actually quite good. The humor can be pretty wicked sometimes – maybe I’m sick, but I laughed my guts out at the dead guy joke. But sadly, that’s just about it. When the talking is over, it is usually followed by a tiresome, annoying and in most cases a confusing situation. If it wasn’t for the laughs, the time spent reading “The Last Plague” would be surmised as completely and utterly wasted.
~ Trin ~


Barbara Martin said...

From your review it seems like the plotting could have been developed better. I like to read reviews of books to learn about weak and strong areas in any particular book. Then I can look at my own work to improve it.

Unknown said...

you're right; the plotting definitely could've been done better, but at the same time, the dialogue is perfectly ok. An interesting way of reading reviews - never really thought about that aspect of them before. :)


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