Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Approximate word count: 75,000-80,000 words
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John Nelson is Director, Quality and Risk Management, Patient Safety and Infection Control for a community hospital in Utah. Against Nature is his first novel.
While executing a space walk, an astronaut snags his suit and unknowingly contracts a deadly disease. On returning to earth, the infection is missed during debriefing and the Shuttle crew disperses to their home countries and they begin to spread the disease, which is fatal to mammals within two weeks of being contracted. With no known cure, a worldwide pandemic occurs.
The premise of the story, while not new, is compelling enough—examining how the world would respond to a highly infectious and incurable disease. However, I struggled to suspend disbelief and therefore found it hard to get immersed in the story. In part this was because of the seeming ease with which sweeping events and decisions were made, for example when the US government tried to cover up the fact that the disease was initiated at NASA, by claiming it came from a terrorist chemical weapons factory situated on the Pakistani border, and immediately mobilized 300,000 troops and invaded Pakistan—this effort would be considerably more difficult.
In part because the characters, particularly the US President and Vice President and various influential media moguls, didn’t ring true to me—too stereotypical and two-dimensional.
The underlying moralistic tale about corporate America being bad and self-serving and elitists—told by realizing a series of well-worn conspiracy theories--and leftist-leaning South American countries having the right political and cultural approach—justified by extolling their social fairness and free health services, often seemed to swamp the storyline. For my taste, too much of the story was taken up with narrative explanations of this political dichotomy. If the purpose was to delivering an Orwellian message through the veil of a story, for me, the story needed to be stronger.
Rating: *** Three stars