Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
cat zero (Jennifer Rohn)
Title: cat zero
Author: Jennifer Rohn
Publisher: Biting Duck Press
Publication Date: January 2, 2018 (paperback)
Well me mateys, while this be an enjoyable read, it certainly wasn’t what I was expectin’. If ye read the blurb, ye get an idea that this is going to be a post-apocalyptic tale about a virus killin’ off both cats and humanity with a scientist racin’ to find a cure as quickly as possible. This is not the case. I kept waiting for the human death count to spiral out of control. The first confirmed human death didn’t even arrive until around the 60% mark and there was never another. And the solution to the problem was certainly not a real rush. So if ye be expectin’ that kind of tale then this is not fer ye.
This book was is what the author calls “lab-lit.” Her amazon page says that it “is a small but growing genre of mainstream fiction about scientists and science as a profession.” Her website explains more about the ramifications of the term. Amazon also says that Jennifer Rohn “leads a research lab at University College London in the United Kingdom, studying how bacteria subvert human cells during infection.” Cool!
So while this book did not end up being what I thought, I still very much enjoyed it for both the science and characters. I have no scientific background except fer some chemistry classes back in the day and a best mate who is a vet. This story takes us through a mini-crash course of virology specifically concerning VSN RNA and feline leukemia (FeLV). I could follow along fairly well. The science part of the plot involves trying to figure out what the virus is and how it is evolving. Ye spend the majority of the time in the lab hearing about the day-to-day life, experiments, and politics. Oh and there is some stuff about epidemiologists and mathematical modeling. The math stuff did go over me head.
The characterizations were where much of the tension in the book came from. All of the main characters suffering from mental illness of some kind – autism, phobias, etc. The scientists were a quirky bunch. Artemis, the main protagonist, finds herself in complication relationships with the three other male scientists that are working on the problem with her. There are so many secrets and complicated issues that she is not sure who to trust. And of course one of those men happens to be both her post-doc and odd love interest. So add sexual tension in there. Oh and Aremis is trying to go through a divorce too. More sexual tension and angst.
I would normally find all these science and relationship elements to be overwhelming but instead I found meself pondering how it would all resolve. This kept me readin’. The answers for both the epidemic and relationships where a little underwhelming but nicely wrapped up. It ended up being a pleasant read. So if ye like lots of science in detail and crazy people doing crazy things then this read might be for ye.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Biting Duck Press!
Netgalley’s website has this to say about the novel:
Artie Marshall is a scientist. She is perpetually underfunded, relegated to a damp basement, and besieged on all sides by sexist colleagues. Added to that she is immersed in a messy divorce. But she’s never been happier: she recently landed her own lab, based in an eclectic think-tank housed in the leafy suburbs of North London.
Artie spends her days studying an obscure cat virus that nobody else in the world seems to have heard of – or cares about. But her arcane little research problem suddenly becomes worryingly relevant as local cats start dropping dead overnight. Matters get worse when people start getting infected too.
Working with her right-hand man Mark, her vet friends and her street-smart technician, Artie races to get to the bottom of the ballooning epidemic. Unexpected assistance arrives in the form of two basement-dwelling mathematicians – a sociopathic recluse and his scary, otherworldly savant mentor. When their mathematical models suggest that the cat plague might actually be more sinister than it first appears, Artie gets drawn into a web of secrets and lies that threatens to blow apart her lab family, undermine her sanity – and endanger her own life.
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