“Images from disaster movies came to mind, but she’d never seen one like this. In theaters and on late-night TV, Christina had vicariously experienced nuclear wars, unstoppable plagues, earthquakes, tsunami, alien invasions, and more. The weird thing about this catastrophe was the absence of death and destruction. On the eerily still streets of Los Angeles, the only dead things were cars…”
Petroplague, by Amy Rogers
Diversion Books, August 2011
352 pages (ebook)
UCLA graduate student Christina Gonzalez wanted to use biotechnology to free America from its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Instead, an act of eco-terrorism unleashes her genetically-modified bacteria into the fuel supply of Los Angeles, making petroleum useless.
With the city paralyzed and slipping toward anarchy, Christina must find a way to rein in the microscopic monster she created. But not everyone wants to cure the petroplague – and some will do whatever it takes to spread it. From the La Brea Tar Pits to university laboratories to the wilds of the Angeles National Forest, Christina and her cousin River struggle against enemies seen and unseen to stop the infection before it’s too late.
I’ve been reading Amy Rogers’s blog, ScienceThrillers.com, for a while now, and finally decided to take the plunge and read her own science thriller, Petroplague.
It’s somewhat awkward reading a book of someone you know, even if you don’t actually know them. It feels very similar to reading a book that you know is a friend’s absolute favorite and worrying that you aren’t going to love it as much as they do. In some ways not as bad, because the person isn’t really a friend… but in another way it’s even worse, because it’s not their favorite book, it’s their book.
In this case I didn’t need to worry; Petroplague was everything I expected from it. When it comes to science-based thrillers, Michael Crichton is sort of the figurehead of that subgenre, and this felt very much like something Crichton might have imagined.
The science is the biggest thing this book has going for it. It all sounds completely plausible, without getting bogged down in details. The scenario that Rogers lays out is fascinating and chilling, with the way society devolves in a crisis like this providing as much or even more terror than the physical consequences. The individual characters, on the other hand, are hit or miss. They aren’t cardboard cut-outs, but they don’t really leap off the page either.
In the end, though, like any good story, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. In this case, the constant tension and excitement kept me reading, wanting to see how it was all going to work out. Overall, it’s a very enjoyable and satisfying read, one that has me wondering if Amy Rogers has any other novel ideas.
Does this sound like something you’d pick up? Have you ever been nervous to try a new author because you already know them somehow?