Viral Novella series – -30-, Anomaly, Martyrs and The Call – review

Cover for one of the novellas in the series - Anomaly

The Viral novella series is a collection of four novella length stories, all based around the theme of viral warfare. The four stories are only loosely connected together, each acting as an almost stand alone treatment of the topic. The series is anchored by author Steven Savile, who is co-author of all four stories. Along with Savile, the stories are co-authored by:

  • -30-Keith R. A. DeCandido (when journalist Joe Lombardo is fed information by an old source about the CIA using immunisation programs as a cover for searching for terrorists, he has to decide whether to publish the story and cause untold damage to the reputation of immunisation. Of course, the CIA hired team of assassins on his trail make it difficult to think clearly).
  • AnomalyJason Fischer (a doctor overseeing a vaccination program in Africa discovers a CIA plot to use the vaccines to infect people to cause disruption to the African Union).
  • MartyrsJordan Ellinger (a local Pakistani doctor does a deal that allows him to run a free inoculation program, while the CIA uses DNA taken from patients to track down a dangerous terrorist).
  • The CallAlex Black (Nikolas, a veteran CIA agent, hunts a Taliban commander potentially in possession of a weapon of mass destruction).

I read this series because I’ve liked the work of one of the authors (Jason Fischer – an Australian speculative fiction author).

Each of the stories in the series felt a little rushed, but I did think the four stories complemented each other well, making the series a good one to read together. The theme of immunisation programs used as a cover for more nefarious secret agent purposes, and the possible consequences, was pushed hard and a little repetitively in each story, although Anomaly used a sufficiently different take on the subject to be interesting.

The writing was consistent, especially considering the number of authors involved. I probably preferred Anomaly, but then I’ve liked Fischer’s writing for a while. Anyone who can find a way to use the line “If it’s good enough for David Hasslehoff, it’s good enough for me” in a story has my vote. The tension in the each of the stories was sustained and the action was credible.

I think the series would have been stronger if the stories were interlinked more, forming a more cohesive overarching storyline. I suspect this would have been possible with a relatively small amount of additional work – the stories were grouped fairly closely in terms of subject matter. Regardless I enjoyed all four stories individually.

A credible series of modern thrillers, each of which could have legitimately longer pieces in their own right.

Note: the series was provided to me at no cost by Jason Fischer, one of the authors.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.


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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

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