Well, talk about writing a book that reflects current society; Jason Parent’s latest book is a horror/SF Hybrid novel about a – yep, you got it – virus. A potentially world ending disease. The novel starts with Sergei, one of six astronauts and astrobiologists, drilling into the Siberian permafrost – a tundra, in preparation for an unlikely mission to the Mars polar caps. In his microphone, he hears the voice of a little girl call him ‘Papa’, convinced one of the crew have put a recording echoing his dead daughter, into his helmet as a cruel joke.But the voice is real; and it’s telling him to find the right spot and dig and dig until they can be together.
Wheelchair user Clara St Pierre is six months into MS progression and it has erased her energetic and positive self, whilst her mind has sharpened and her body deteriorated. Clara works in medical genome and bioinformatics, struggling to find answers to eradicate her disease. In her early forties, she is on a UN sponsored scientific facility also in Siberia.Clara is heading to work on ‘Molli ‘, a virus stored in a fridge and the fourth virus to have been extracted from seeds found in an ancient squirrel’s nest under the permafrost, buried for thirty thousand years.
Already, the feel of the book is a multi-characters, literary bio horror, possibly inspired by Carpenter ‘s ‘The Thing ‘. Team of scientists – check
Icy tundra – check
Mystery parasite or cryogenic frozen life – check
And oh crap, this team looks to be in trouble.
There’s other characters that appear as the group finds themselves trying to escape horrific mutations at the station, desperate to survive or to just kill the virus. For Dante, a raggedly dressed prisoner with a black painted cross on his forehead, the mission is clear. Make sure the virus doesn’t get out – at all costs. Surprisingly, as he starts out a hostage at the research centre, he demonstrates acts of heroism that he’d probably deny, but despite that, and the violence he’s committed, he’s a really likeable character, along with Monty the Aussie soldier and Anju the doctor. The narrative follows two main groups in their attempts to escape, with a literal time bomb ticking, and relationships forming between the groups. The book excels in its body horror. Though it is likened to ‘The Thing’ by myself and in other reviews, Parent’s visual imagination with his creations is gruesome and very disturbing, yet also, at times, very funny. Well, funny if you’re a sadistic nerd like me.
Though the premise is simple at it’s core, the action is really well handled, the gun play is realistic and the characters show their flaws as well as their positive natures. It’s gross, funny, full of action and genuine tension. More than anything, it is also scary because we currently find ourselves amid a pandemic, and the author’s vision sounds far too probable.