Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Culling

Robert Johnson is an Okie who moved to California later in life. He's studied film and became a screenwriter. He's won plenty of awards. The Culling is his first book.


Hardback copy
Carl Sims, a young virologist, discovers a plot hatched by a group of international scientists to cull, in a matter of weeks, two-thirds of the world's population - some 4.5 billion people, by releasing a deadly virus that kills two thirds of those it infects. Their goal is to reduce Earth's population from an unsustainable seven billion to two billion. What is he to do? Try to stop the conspiracy, or join it?

Horrific, yes, but what if this culling could prevent the extinction of some forty percent of our planet's flora and fauna? Or if he was certain it was the only way to prevent an even larger human die-off, incurring significantly more suffering, by the end of this century? Or if he were convinced it represented the only hope for humanity surviving at all? This is at the heart of this thriller, for these viruses do, in fact, exist.


The title alone drew me in to this little gem of a novel. Yes, some of us are very aware of how overpopulated the planet is, but culling the herd is most def an inhumane way to go about it. This novel takes a look at scientists who are looking at the bigger picture. Save the earth by taking out a good percentage of the reckless population who can't seem to stop breeding.

This actually got me thinking about deer. How every year we have a season where hunters are allowed to bring down the deer population. If we culled the human herds one has to admit we would be of a manageable size. One: people would stop having so many children if the fear of them dying this or the next year was eminent. Two: we would have a smaller population if a lot of us got wiped out yearly. TIs it more humane or inhumane than dying from a deadly virus? Okay, I got a little carried away there. Back to the novel.

Carl Sims is a virologist who works for the CDC. He gets sent on a mission to investigate a potential outbreak of the flu in China. Jenna, epidemiologist, and two interns have to figure this out while not getting contaminated and not getting killed. The first half of the novel has us dealing with the Chinese outbreak, and I enjoyed the facts the novel tries to tell the reader through Carl and Jenna's discussions with the interns. Yes, it was not as subtle as it could have been, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

Later, Carl gets sick and travels back to the USA and decides to leave quarantine and go to Alaska to find out about a deadlier strain of Influenza. This part had me a little annoyed with Carl. He is a virologist. He knows how important it is to take safety precautions. His delusional belief that he wasn't sick was a little too unreal for someone who knows how his job works.

The other half of the novel gets to the reveals, and I can't expand on them because of spoilers. I understood the motives and the reasons for the scientists wanting to do what they did and I was not surprise with who the scientist were because the novel doesn't try to hide much. What you see is what you get all the way until the ending which was  sad but so real. I enjoyed this novel.

About the characters, I liked them all. They were all diverse and all had their own reasons for doing what they were doing. No, they were not likable. Not all. But they were real. Even Carl's ex girlfriend, when she lost her cool and wanted to make the antiviral so bad that she does something seen as evil, its explainable. I saw her point. Her reasoning. The novel does spend time with a few folks at the CDC that I didn't know enough or cared enough to remember, but they were crucial as well. Everyone had a purpose in this story. No characters wasted. From the interns who needed to be imparted knowledge, to the wheelchair bound friend who helped get Carl out of a lot of bad situations.

About the plot, first, I loved the narration. I love the pan in and pan out feel of every spot Carl finds himself in. The first chapter, the intro, was perfect and it set the tone for the rest of the novel. A mosquito comes down to poor village in South America and bites our host, our MC. From there on we go on a trip from country to country and scenario to scenario. All at a great pace.

Good book.

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