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Review: White Plague by James Abel -Stunning!

White Plague by James AbelAnd I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. – Revelations 6:8 – King James Bible

Paneloux is a man of learning, a scholar. He hasn’t come in contact with death; that’s why he can speak with such assurance of the truth-with a capital T. But every country priest who visits his parishioners and has heard a man gasping for breath on his deathbed thinks as I do. He’d try to relieve human suffering before trying to point out its goodness. -Albert Camus – The Plague Part 2

There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour. – Benjamin Disraeli
What is the point to winning a war – if all your subjects are rotting in their graves? For me, no ideological or political conviction would justify the sacrifice of a human life. For me, the value of life is absolute, with no concessions. It’s not negotiable. Edgar Ramirez

It begins, as do many things, death amongst them, with silence. The pleas for help stopped coming just after five in the morning, Washington time. The Pentagon staffers cleared for handling sensitive messages sat in horror for a moment and then tried other ways to reach the victims. Nothing worked, so they called the director, who phoned me.

And what follows horrified me, chilled me to the bone, and kept me reading four hours past when I should, by all reasonable measure, put it down and gone to bed. And horrifying the story is, for a lot of different reasons, but mainly? For the absolute, gut wrenching reality of it all. And just how true it is – how likely that something like this will happen.

Lt. Colonel Joe Rush gets the call at 1am, Anchorage time, as he pounds the streets, running from sleep, running from memories. Memories of decisions which saved lives, while taking others. Which left him with the weight of the world on his shoulders, the blackness of grief in his heart. Two weeks. Just two weeks until he retires. And now, this. A new submarine prototype has surfaced in the Arctic – and it is burning. One-hundred-fifty seven souls, trapped on the ice. And no one is near enough to reach them except the single ice breaker the US government has funded to handle the vast spaces of the Arctic waters. Colonel Rush, MD and virology specialist, must get to them as quickly as possible if they are to save the people and salvage the submarine before Chinese or Russian icebreakers claim it for their own.

Monster storms, crushing ice, bone breaking cold – all are threats which Rush, the few Marines who accompany him, and the few Coast Guard sailors handling the Icebreaker Wilmington must meet and overcome to reach their burned and stranded submariners. The sick submariners. For a sickness is burning through the crew, a sickness that no one can identify.

It becomes a race, a race to save the people, to save the submarine, and to avert a single incident that could be the linchpin starting World War III. For as global warming breaks up the ice, opening trade routes and access to unknown stores of oil, gems, metals and trade routes, the political machinations have begun. Great beasts of war are gathering, stomping their hooves, waving their swords, and foaming at the mouths for the blood of those they would call ‘enemy’.

What is the sickness? Where did it come from? And more importantly, can it be cured before the political machine does the unthinkable in a move to ascertain it’s own power? And who aboard the Wilmington is a traitor? And how high do the traitor’s contacts go – and to whom does he report?

No one becomes depraved all at once. – JUVENAL, Satires

All these questions and more make this a hair-raising, edge-of-your-seat military suspense/thriller beyond compare. With it’s roots dug deeply into current political and military policy, White Plague is, beyond a doubt, the BEST military suspense thriller I have read this year.

Highly recommended.

I received the book from Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own and are not affected by this fact. For more information on First To Read, click.

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The Effervescence of Truth Is Out! Ivee Olivares Third Sonnclere Mystery

front cover
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Blurb:

A truth drug … A secret uncovered … A desire for revenge …

Who do we trust? Our loved ones, our friends, strangers? In a world where the truth is not always straightforward, scientists have tried time and again to engineer a drug that would compel people to reveal all. But is it always a good idea?

Scientist and Police Consultant Dr Neroli Sonnclere is pulled into the middle of a great discovery—of a powerful new truth drug. It seems everyone sees the advantages in using it, but not always for the right reasons. Neroli soon realises that those close to her have hidden agendas. She learns that even the least likely of people have secrets, and that it’s incredibly easy to lie. And more importantly, that everyone, including her, is capable of betraying those we love.

The third installment of the Sonnclere Mystery Series, The Effervescence of Truth continues the adventures of a young female scientist with a unique gift. Born with hyperosmia, or a heightened sense of smell, Dr Sonnclere possesses the ability to sniff out odours undetected by ordinary humans. Together with Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Adam McClellan, Neroli recognises that others want to use the truth for their twisted plans. She uses her powerful nose and scientific knowledge to defend herself and keep the drug from falling into the wrong hands. The story uncovers intrigue within her University’s scientific community, the questionable ethics of the British media, and reveals that all is not well at the heart of London’s Russian high society.

Is the truth so important? The reality is—truth can be dangerous. Would you want the truth even if it may hurt in the end?

Only $0.99!  Amazon

REVIEW:

My freakish ability, together with my chemistry background, has not only earned me scientific recognition, it has also landed me a consultancy job with the police. – Dr. Neroli Sonnclere, The Effervescence of Truth

 I’ve found a different way to scent the air: already it’s a by-word for despair. – Andrew Motion

Dr. Neroli Sonnclere is an anomaly – a brilliant chemist, she is also a rarity of nature. The scientific term for her particular genetic condition is hyperosmia. To put it simply, her, nose can discern all sorts of scents even in minute quantities, including those that escape more ordinary human beings. While persons with hyperosmia may become exceptional sommeliers or world-famous parfumeurs, Neroli uses her skill as a chemist to both explore her own difference and to create chemical formulae utilizing her capabilities. Which not only allowed her to become the “Pied Piper of Buckingham Palace” as well as a police consultant (the police consultancy and Pied Piperism show up in previous books.)

Now, Dr. Sonnclere’s particular abilities are not only placing her in personal danger, but threatening the very stability of world politics. For the truth shall not always set you free – it may, instead, cause the collapse of governments.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. – Marcus Aurelius

It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. – Mark Twain

The Effervescence of Truth is wonderfully unusual, written in a voice that is uniquely Ivee Olivares’ own. Filled with the logic and through processes of a woman of science, there is a deep and abiding truth in everything Ivee writes, whether it be the truth of the chemistry involved, or of the depths of human nature and belief systems. Filled with political machinations, espionage and overwhelming greed – both financial and within the halls of education where the tenure requirement is publish or die. And death, in this case, stalks even the rarified halls of academia.

Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell

Trust. Truth. Greed. The push to publish and the longing for funding and discovery and success. All laid against a background of political intrigue and deep and abiding hatreds. Yep. Well worth a read!

___________________________

I edited Ivee Olivares’ The Effervescence of Truth and found Ivee to be a wonderful person to work with – a person who has written as deeply interesting and thoughtful novel with deep strengths. All opinions are my own and not affected by my client relationship with Ivee.

Review: Plague by Buzz Bernard

plague
The idea was good.
The outcome, not so much.
Click for Goodreads reviews.

“We produce about 100 metric tons per year of weaponized variola virus. Smallpox.” Uri Sherbokov – designated escort, minder, keeper – Plague

“I studied at Emory University in America.” – Alnour Barashi – Terrorist – Plague

“We had begun working on the biological warfare issue in 1993, after the World Trade Center bombing made it clear that terrorism could strike at home, and a defector from Russia had told us that his country had huge stocks of anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, and other pathogens, and had continued to produce them even after the demise of the Soviet Union.”– Bill Clinton

Plague
[pleyg] noun
1. an epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence.
2. an infectious, epidemic disease caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis,  characterized by fever, chills, and prostration, transmitted to humans from rats by means of the bites of fleas. Compare bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, septicemic plague.
3. any widespread affliction, calamity, or evil, especially one regarded as a direct punishment by God: a plague of war and desolation. -Websters Merriam Dictionary 2013

I am very much of two minds about this book, and for two very different reasons. I put a great deal of thought into my review after reading, and still am torn.

To get this out of the way, I am not fond of the writing style. The exposition is thin, the characters are more ‘caricatures’ and it could stand a good editor who can help the writer more fully realize his plotting and characterizations.

With that out of the way, let’s talk terrorism, level-4 containment, and the ease of foreign terrorists gaining use of facilities. We know other countries are creating biological weapons, as are we. “An offensive biological program was begun in 1942 under the direction of a civilian agency, the War Reserve Service (WRS). The Army Chemical Warfare Service was given responsibility and oversight for the effort. The mounting threat of the German buzz bombs that were raining on England from launching sites on the Continent during 1943 spurred the urgency of BW (biological warfare) defense because it was thought that these high-explosive rockets might easily be converted into efficient weapons for massive BW attacks.”(Weapons of Mass Destruction: http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/bw.htm)

Things haven’t slowed down since 1942, and in some countries, especially Middle Eastern and the former Soviet states, it has increase dramatically. Given the state of world terrorism, it is not if, but when we will have to face yet another bioterror attack, such as the anthrax attacks of 2001. How it happens, and what the outcome is up in the air, but it will happen, and it will be horrific.

Bernard’s “Plague” addresses this issue, given a situation where the terrorist is an employee of a level-4 laboratory. The scenario is plausible, though some don’t seem to agree with me. Employees have the run of their labs, and can come and go at need, making it simple for them to hide what they are doing. As another reviewer said (paraphrased) “just like at Wendy’s.” There are thousands of foreigners working at highly secure facilities all around the United States, making it easy for a foreign terrorist to gain access if their cover is deep enough. Besides, we have own own, “home grown” terrorists as well who are just as dangerous, though usually on a par with high school educations rather than high-level virologists. I had no problem believing that part of the story. I could even see a foreign government being involved in the ownership of one of these facilities. Apparently, American corporations are more about the money than they are the safety of the people. But be that neither here nor there.

The writing simply wasn’t believable. Like many, I am a huge fan of the nonfiction work “The Hot Zone” and others in the vein. I adore heavily scientific works based around this theme, whether they be fiction or non-fiction. However, this one didn’t reach the level of excellence I had hoped for. If Bernard had spent more time on exposition, I might possibly have found the work more interesting. However, the characters just didn’t feel realistic. They were stilted and in at least one case, cartoonish.

While the overall idea was good, in the end, the book was simply a disappointment for me.

Review: Life’s Blood by Gordon Gumpertz – FIVE Stars

life's blood
Click to purchase this book. You really should. I mean it!

Swenson’s Law:  To avoid deprivation resulting from the exhaustion of non-renewable resources, humanity must employ conservation and renewable resource substitutes sufficient to match depletion.

 Any future scenario involving the continuing indulgence or coddling of fossil fuel interests is delusional.  M. King Hubbert ‘Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels” [1]

Suggesting that a reduction of the addiction to oil is cost-effective is cute. What is the difficulty with recognizing that nature no longer gives us a choice in the matter? [Editor]

Set America Free: A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security, from the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) [2004 September 27][2]

As long as SEC regulations inhibit IOCs from reporting 2P reserves, and as long as OPEC quotas prevent members from accurately reporting reserves, reserves data will be flawed. Proved reserves are financial (SEC) or political (OPEC) data and should not be aggregated or used in forecasts about the future. Only proven plus probable estimates should be used and only annual production of mature fields is required for a good estimate of reserves, irrespective of all published estimates. Every country should release complete historical field annual production and most disagreements on reserves will disappear for those ready to plot the decline and to extrapolate it. Unfortunately it does not work well when field production is constrained by OPEC quotas or investment. But now quotas are less and less followed and investments are plenty from IOCs for countries which do not deny signed agreements as Venezuela, Bolivia and Russia.” Jean Laherrère [Petroleum Africa, 2007][3]

 ______________________________________

I admit it. I am using footnotes in my book review. How geeky is that? However, this book deserves the footnotes, and so much more. Because once read, even though it is a fiction book, I cannot see anyone on this planet not wanting to learn more about oil reserves, and the quickly diminishing worldwide oil supply. As I told a friend back when the financial crisis was in full swing, “weasels are running the chicken ranch and all us hens are pecking around ignoring the huge chunks of sky that are raining down around us.” In this instance money, greed and power are the same principles (if principles is really the word to be used here – the people involved have no principles.) And the outcome on the horizon is horrifying.

This book is a thriller, and a very well written one at that. Set in present time, and taking into account what must have been an amazing amount of research on the author’s part, Life’s Blood is also a horror tale – an unimaginable tale of where we are going from here in regards to world finance and the swiftly approaching time when oil reserves are a thing of the past – when the world will have to grow up, open their eyes, and realize that through our own greed and thoughtlessness, our own purposeful ignorance, and the greed of a few powerful men, we are looking at a crisis of global proportions with no answer in sight.

Set through the eyes of two CIA R&D agents, the story delves into the misreporting of oil reserves by a small group of controlling parties intent on stockpiling billions of dollars of personal wealth – then getting while the getting is good, before the world economy collapses like a tissue paper balloon as oil supplies run out. And when the supply runs out? The Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff, the largest financial fraud in U.S. history and the lynchpin for the market collapse that destroyed so many lives and fortunes around the world will seem as a time of growth and prosperity.

It is always hard to write a review about a book that hits me so hard on a visceral level. I want to talk on and on about why it engrossed me so, what parts I loved, what parts terrified me the most. I am always afraid I will get caught up in the review; I will give it all away. This is definitely one of those books. The characters are highly believable, as is the action in the book. The characters are far from perfect, which makes it highly believable. Toward the end I wanted to throttle one of the “good guy” characters myself, as he was acting pretty much like an idiot. But even that was interesting, and led depth to the character.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Gumpertz has written a book of depth and knowledge in a fictional manner which grasps the reader, pulls you in, and offers a view of a world on the teetering edge of calamity, in a sci-fi style that kept me awake through the night and into the afternoon as I focused up his work to the exclusion of all else. Buy it. Read it. Pay attention to it. It will change your world.

Highly Recommended.

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[3] What’s Wrong with Reserves? by Jean Laherrere 14 March 2007

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