I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been suffering from a flare-up of tendonitis in my wrists, which is why I haven’t posted as much recently. While I may be moving at a slower pace than usual, I’m hoping it won’t slow me down too much and I will still be able to churn out a steady amount of reviews!
This novel intrigued me because of its scientific nature, as well as because of its author’s reputation. A friend of mine spoke very highly of this author, and while she is able to read Chinese fluently and so can read this novel in its native form, I must be content with a translated version. Either way, I was very excited to be approved for this novel!
Mei Yin is a young scientist who runs her own research institute in China. Not only is she known for her scientific prowess, she is also known for her kindness; she has founded an orphanage that helps hundreds of children. But Mei Yin is not all that she seems to be: in her possession is “Satan’s gift”, a deadly smallpox virus left over from Russian research conducted during the Cold War. Mei Yin is determined to find a vaccine for this virus – no matter the cost.
Zia Baj is a terrorist who is also a notable virologist – and he has also obtained Satan’s gift. However, his plans for this virus are a lot more sinister; he plans to start a war that will rip the world apart. And he knows exactly the right place to unleash this virus: an American classroom. At the same time, thousands of miles away, the children in Mei Yin’s orphanage fall ill.
As the authorities begin to notice the eerie similarity in outbreak patterns in these two locations, they can’t help but wonder how these two cases are linked…. and whether this outbreak can even be stopped.
Usually when I read a novel that is translated, I try not to comment too much on the prose or the awkwardness of the language; I can’t really judge these two aspects accurately as I am not reading this novel in the language that the author intended, and I am not here to judge a translator at how well they do their job. With that being said, I found the story to be very interesting. This novel is heavily steeped in science and if you are not familiar with virology or even certain basic concepts of evolution and their consequences, then this novel may not be as enjoyable for you. I enjoyed that the author was able to make me think of evolution and vaccination in a different way; I’m not saying I agree with the conclusions that the author makes but it definitely gave me food for thought! I also found that the story had a good amount of detail and good character development, as well. The terrorist angle was a little bit weird for me because it is mentioned in the beginning of the novel an then stays silent for a major part of the story, only rearing its head at the end. While the author did tie up all loose ends, I’m not so sure if the terrorist angle was really necessary. It was also the part that I believed had the least amount of shaping and growth, when it could have been a lot deeper and more developed. Overall, a very interesting novel that will make you rethink what you know about evolution and viruses.