Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Amanda's Story, by Brian O'Grady

The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611880472, November 2012

Amanda Flynn is a young widow recovering from the death, just a year ago, of her husband and young son. She has relied heavily on the emotional and practical support of her in-laws, Greg and Lisa, but now she's finally ready to try to strike out on her own and start a new life. She joins the American Red Cross as part of a disaster response team, and has barely completed her training when a hurricane hits Honduras, and she is deployed with her team to the most seriously affected area.

The hurricane's effects are the least of their problems. A strange illness is stalking the area, apparently brought in by a vulture possibly blown in by the storm. The mortality rate is terrifying; everyone dies.

Except Amanda.

She gets ill, but recovers, and when finally rescued is rushed to a top secret American military medical facility, where she is tested and tested and tested, first to be sure she really isn't contagious, and then to find out why she recovered. And the doctor in control of her "treatment" has no intention of letting her go until he's gotten the medical breakthrough he wants. Meanwhile, Amanda is experiencing some strange, new sensations, and this is where the story takes a dark and dangerous turn.

I'm not generally a fan of dark thrillers treading the edges of the horror genre, but there's a lot to like about this one. Amanda is a convincingly drawn character, basically decent but by no means a saint, struggling with the very real effects and temptations of what the EDH1 virus did to her. The science behind the virus, to the extent that it's described and to the limits of my knowledge, seems frighteningly plausible.

Toughest of all, O'Grady has military, political, and CDC officials doing some very skeevy things, for mixed good and bad motivations, without descending into cheap stereotypes about Black Helicopters and Evil Government. These are real human beings, struggling with real concerns and real temptations.

Not least among the tempted is Amanda, reacting to the alarming changes the virus has made in her.

The relationships between Amanda and her in-laws, and Amanda and her aunt, are also interesting and compelling.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.