I've read Carol Hedges' three Victorian murder mysteries and loved them; even though I am not a fan of YA books I love the whole post apocalyptic genre, so was keen to give this a go.
In this future world all countries are one, with one president, and peace reigns. This follows a cybercrash in which the computer systems of the world were wiped out within a couple of hours, and also the effects of climate change which has altered the entire landscape of the planet. The story centres around Will and Amber. Will is popular, clever and sought after; Amber is a non-conformist with strange intuitive capabilities. Oddly attracted to each other, they come together to investigate the truth behind the death of Will's father and possible government conspiracies.
As always, Carol Hedges' characters are immediately real and three dimensional, the dialogue sharp, realistic and often funny; there's a definite element of dry humour throughout this book that I liked very much. However, I would have liked to know much more detail about how the current situation came to be, and how the people now live, how the world had changed as a whole; at the beginning I couldn't quite work out what was going on, when and where it was supposed to be taking place, etc, though some of my questions were answered fairly soon (by Mr Neots, the boring teacher, a great character!), and more later.
The Final Virus is a good mixture of the sci-fi thriller/adventure and believable relationships between the teenage main characters, and I think YA fans of the genre will enjoy this series very much.
In a dystopian future, Earth’s environment has completely changed following a spate of natural disasters which claimed a huge percentage of the populace and caused extreme climate change. Plus a total cybercrash wiping the data from every chip, memory board and circuit on the planet. This new world is governed by just one president who revitalised the world and improved life for the remaining population. Seemingly.
Will is still reeling from the sudden, and as he believes, suspicious, death of his father. When he finds a calling card which is able to be read by Ned, the computer his father built which Will now uses, his misgivings don’t seem unfounded. Will is desperate to find out the truth behind his father’s death. He is helped by Amber, his strange and unpredictable classmate, both of them unaware of the danger they are placing themselves in. Will and Amber are complete opposites but despite that, develop an attraction to each other.
Completely different in writing style and genre to other books by Carol Hedges that I’ve read but nevertheless, the characterisation is just as good. Will and Amber are well defined and distinct, as are the secondary characters, nasty ones too, of which there are a few, but all have their part to play in moving the story forward. I like how the relevant facts of the world setting were revealed by the obnoxious teacher, Mr Neots, in the form of history lessons.
A well written story with some great twists. It’s quite a scary picture of the possible effects and consequences of severe climate change. I like how Will and Amber’s relationship evolves realistically, given the situation and the disparity between them, yet somehow they complement each other. There are a few plot points which don’t quite add up and perhaps needed to be developed, (I’m wondering if there will be a sequel) but on the whole, this is a very enjoyable read.
Back in 2007, SciFi writer Bruce Sterling proposed "An Eschatological Taxonomy". (Yeah, I had to look that one up too. Apparently, eschatological means the study of the end of the world. Who knew?) According to this world-ending events scale, Carol Hedges’ new post-apocalyptic YA thriller is a level 2— [quote]
“Global civilization destroyed; millions (at most) remain alive, in isolated locations, with ongoing death rate likely exceeding birth rate. Chance of humankind recovery: slim. Many non-human species die off, but some remain and, over time, begin to expand and diverge. Chance of biosphere recovery: good.”—http://www.openthefuture.com/2006/12/...
So readers might be surprised to meet the main characters—teenagers who live in suburban houses, attend high school, go to the mall, and play video games on their home computers. At school, they are taught the history of the previous century’s disaster, The Great Cybercrash. Following the destruction of much of the world’s population due to climate change, worldwide crop failures, and plagues, a single company—Globaltraid—under a seemingly immortal President, led the remnants of humanity back to relative prosperity in a regenerating world. Or did they?
High school senior Will begins to question this version of events when his father is killed in a mysterious workplace “accident”. He is accompanied by the class outsider, Amber, who sees ever-increasing visions of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. With the help of Ned—an artificial intelligence construct with a video-game addicted multiple-personality disorder—Will and Amber begin to kick over the stones that their world is founded on. What they find underneath could kill them. And destroy the world.
There were so many things I loved in this book, such as the way the action was set in a suburban location so normal it took a while to realize that for this Earth, the setting was anything but normal. I particularly liked the creepy President, a man so ancient he has trouble remembering to care about anything except his own ongoing survival. Both Will and Amber’s characters were believable as the high school’s golden boy and outsider girl. And even the supporting characters such as Will’s little sister, and the brother and sister of Will’s nemesis Mr. Neots, were fun to read if less well-rounded.
There were some pieces that didn’t work for me. Even in a low-tech post-apocalyptic tale like this one, the science was dubious at best. Okay, maybe there was an instantaneous and globalwide virus that caused every machine in the world to fail simultaneously. Didn’t anyone ever hear about backups? If most of the world’s ecosystem is wiped out, what are Will’s town and the others using for raw materials to make their cars, computers, and provide their food? And don’t even get me started on Ned, the all-powerful computer (who somehow survived the cybercrash and hundreds of years later still can hack current code?), or on the fact that despite it being centuries later, there has been no noticeable change in dress/morals/family structure/customs/language/housing/machinery? Why are all parents invisible, evil, or dead? And especially why is it that apparently only the descendents of white middle-class types have survived?
But even with these elements, I would give The Final Virus four stars. I enjoyed the way it kept adding twists and turns at each step. Amber’s semi-prescient premonitions contrasted well with Will’s appealing cluelessness, both in their developing relationship and in the unfolding events. I realize that it’s already a little long for a novella, but I wish that the ending had gone into more detail about events and their wrapup. Maybe fodder for a sequel?
***I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
Will and Amber live on a ‘New Earth’, one created after the planet was pretty much destroyed following a cybercrash. This new home is managed by the ‘President’, a character who remains elusive for the majority of the book.
At the start of the novel, we see the similarities to our day to day life. School and homework, children’s parties, and television shows, but as the story progresses we start to get a feel for the subtle differences in this dystopian world.
Amber is a loner with zero friends. Will is a ‘popular’ who is idolised by the entire student body. They are cleverly brought together, but it’s not a smooth road. I liked this aspect of the story. It’s all too easy to opt for the typical coming-of-age ‘boy meets girl-snog-save the world’ storyline. Carol Hedges keeps her characters quirky and at arm’s length, evolving Will and Amber’s relationship at a steady pace.
When their teacher, Mr. Neots, arrives on the scene I took an instant dislike to the man, a testament to the author’s ability to write a fully rounded character. He loathes the students, despises his family and oozes spite. Everything a good antagonist should be.
The storyline centres on Will and his father’s ‘accidental’ death. He meets a government official who leaves more clues to confirm what Will already suspects – that his father was killed. With help from his little computer, Ned, and his new friendship with Amber, they begin a dangerous journey.
Amber’s story is less straightforward. She hears voices and sees the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at every turn, but she wants to help her friend discover the truth.
That truth, however, brings them face-to-face with the worst kind of evil. Suddenly, Amber’s story becomes the main view point.
There are plenty of secondary characters to drive the story forward. I liked Will’s little sister, Dahlia for her injection of familiarity and I thought Chris and Kayla were fabulous in showing how two children from the same parents could be so different.
Although not as vividly descriptive as Carol’s Victorian Murder Mystery series, The Final Virus was a thoroughly enjoyable book, leaving enough threads for a follow-up but succinctly tying up all the loose ends.
I don’t generally read YA books but having enjoyed another book by Carol Hedges I chose The Final Virus and was delighted I did. This is the start of a series but can be read as a standalone and for me its greatest strength is in the superb characters the author creates. You know exactly who everyone is and they are as real as they would be if they were sitting right next to you, which with Mr Neots I’m glad is not the case as he really is a despicable man.
We have Will, a popular boy at school, and with the girls, he’s kind to his younger sister Dahlia and they are both struggling since their father was killed in an accident at work. At least they are told it was an accident but Will doesn’t believe it and sets out to find the truth. Amber is a rather strange girl who sees terrifying visions about the end of the world and lives a lonely life with parents who are mostly absent. As already mentioned there is the odious Mr Neots a teacher from school who hates his family, apart from his equally revolting daughter, Kayla, his pupils and everything about his life as he seeks to better himself. I felt dreadfully sorry for his son Chris. But best of all we have Ned and I think we should all have a character as useful in our lives.
And then of course there is…The President.
At the start of this story there are just the usual teenage life issues going on but gradually there are more and more hints about the perfect, and totally controlled, world they are all now living in since the old one was practically destroyed in a cybercrash. Will and Amber gradually come together and this is very well handled as they are total opposites so their relationship evolves naturally and wasn’t rushed which I liked a lot.
For me the read occasionally felt a little rushed but that is probably because I’m not a YA and like to take my time with the build up towards events happening in stories but I’m sure this book will be hugely enjoyed by those who are. Well-written and with many thoughtful points to consider such as the four horsemen and the stick people, I highly recommend.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and this hasn’t changed my opinion of the read one iota.
This dystopian Young adult novel is set in a bland, pleasant, boring town where a group of intelligent teenagers are “educated” at a school which aims to make them amenable to the World Presidential dictatorship. Following a cybercrash, global warming, natural disasters and disease, continents had disappeared and the world’s population vastly depleted. But we have a very likeable hero in 17-year-old Will, distraught by the sudden death of his father he still manages to give emotional support to his little sister. Handsome and popular, he hasn’t taken much notice of oddball, Amber, who takes little interest in her hair or clothes and seems to be in a dream most of the day. However, they are drawn together by their unease about the apparent “good life” they are leading. Amber is the genetically engineered daughter of wealthy parents she hardly sees but she hears voices and constantly dreams of the four horses of the apocalypse. Will is convinced that his father’s death is no accident. It is easy to engage with the main characters, while the callous teacher Mr Neots, has a splendid Dahlesque quality. There is great humour in the creation of Ned, the voice-responsive computer. His ability to produce essays for Will’s homework, while also exhibiting a distinct attitude problem, lightens the feeling of impending disaster. As Will and Amber realise that the government cannot be trusted and that Will is under observation, the plot moves rapidly and they find themselves in more danger as they approach the truth. I particularly liked the concluding chapters though I couldn’t possibly reveal their content!
The Final Virus is at the upper end of the word count for a novella, but could be read in one sitting if you have a couple of hours. This book possesses a good concept, with a little something different in the dystopian genre, and has some likable characters - as well as some easily loathed characters. It moves along at a brisk pace and the descriptive writing produces some vivid imagery.
With this book being a novella, I felt as if too much was compressed into these pages and think the story could benefit from expanding the word count into the novel range and adding more details about the worldbuilding, characters, and their relationships, allowing for a more balanced plot line. I never had a good grasp of the governmental structure and would have liked to know more about Will and Amber and see their relationship develop at more gradual pace.
There are some nice surprises and twists along the way, but the ending contained a lot of information over a few pages and I think with more details about the worldbuilding, it wouldn't have been quite as difficult to follow.
I received a digital copy of this novella in exchange for an honest review through Rosie's Book Review Team.