When Angerey American, the author of no less than 11 EMP-based post-apocalyptic novels, says there are too many EMP-based books on the market, you know it’s too many.
For fans of the fictional post-apocalyptic genre, it’s more difficult than ever to find good books that are not based on an Electromagnetic Pulse blast sending the civilized world back to the dark ages.
Luckily, a few gems shine through the book seller clutter. In this case, we explore “The Jakarta Pandemic” written by Steven Konkoly and published in 2013 by Stribling Media.
Granted, the book is a few years old, but given the apparent surge in EMP-focused post-apocalyptic novels, it seemed a worthwhile investment of time to play a little catch up for a different kind of scenario.
That said, now that there are current reports by the Centers for Disease Control of a recent surge in human avian flu deaths in Asia, and the discovery of bird flu among chicken farms in Alabama and Tennessee, the threat of a deadly flu pandemic as imagined in the book makes it all too current and real, and even a bit prophetic.
When the book was originally published, the U.S. government had worked with corporations and municipalities to prepare for a bird flu pandemic that threatened one-in-three people. The threat then was taken seriously by all facets of the U.S. because of the economic damage and the disruption to basic services a killer flu would cause.
That the deadly H7N9 virus today is spreading death from human to human in Asia, and may make the leap in the United States is just plain scary.
Clearly, deadly flu pandemics threatening humanity never go out of style.
What works for “The Jakarta Pandemic” is that Konkoly is no rookie writer and his experience helps him take a sober, if not tense, exploration of what a massive pandemic could do the world as we know it.
The story opens with Alex Fletcher a retired Marine officer working in the pharmaceutical industry as he monitors various news websites and realizes he is witnessing the beginning of a global flu pandemic.
The company he works for, of course, makes the kind of anti-virals that will help people survive the pandemic. As expected, there is a business opportunity there for his company, and an ethical problem for him. Then there is the personal struggle for the Fletcher family and their neighbors as the flu begins to take down people in communities all around.
As the world descends into chaos, and as everyday life is disrupted by the disease, people start getting desperate for food and water, as much as they are overwhelmed by the fear of catching the deadly virus.
Konkoly deserves credit for not only tackling this subject matter, he does it while including many atypical elements of a typical family survival novel.
Yes, Fletcher is an Iraq war veteran. Yes, he has a basement stocked with emergency food, medical supplies, and a gun safe full of weapons. We can forgive the author for building on elements that so many post-apocalyptic writers rely on.
But Konkoly deserves credit for exploring a worldwide pandemic on a micro community level. His treatment focuses entirely on how a single neighborhood deals with this massive problem and how the residents react to the pandemic.
Readers will be hard pressed to not envision their neighbors as the exact characters in the book. How will your very own neighborhood self-appointed leader respond to a catastrophic event with no help in sight? What happens to your local busy bodies? What happens to the parents that never cook for their kids when the restaurants close? How will fashionistas or local kooks survive?
This is the stuff that propels the book forward while the natural stress of a worldwide pandemic plays out.
Konkoly also deserves credit for the addition of atypical elements that make things more interesting than the usual set of flat characters all thinking alike and pulling in the same direction.
While all preppers fantasize about their family being fully on board with their survivalist instincts and efforts, the reality is different from the fantasy.
Unfortunately, few writers willingly strike a true and compelling balance between the fantasy and the messy, complicated reality of family or group dynamics facing a catastrophic event.
In the case of our protagonist, the retired Marine, somehow came home from the Middle East to a wife that turned the family into vegans, and preaches an anti-gun philosophy.
That this situation is never clearly explained or deeply explored is awkward. That Fletcher somehow managed to get his vegan, anti-gun wife (and kids) to support the creation of a survivalist basement is a little too much to ignore without a much deeper dive.
Had Konkoly explored these issues in any true detail, he could have made this a truly epic tale.
Why does an anti-gun wife allow her husband to fully-stock his gun safe? Why go vegan if you believe in the coming apocalypse, and your stored survival food might run out? How does a veteran officer, that has a wife that is committed to prepping for a pandemic, somehow neglect to give her or the kids any weapons training?
To be fair, these issues end up minor elements in a much bigger story about the survival of a community during the failure of society. The book is still a very good, thought-provoking read.
Imagine having to self-quarantine your family for six weeks while a pandemic runs its course, and crooks, marauders and jealous, unprepared neighbors threaten your family. Will your kids complain or rebel against the prospect and reality of being quarantined 24-7 for six or more weeks?
All of these are issues that present themselves in this fairly non-traditional survival tale.
If you’re a fan, you’ll appreciate the idea that this isn’t yet another EMP or another attempt at the travels of Odysseus.
The struggles of a family in “The Jakarta Pandemic” that must “bug in” makes it far more realistic and relevant to the vast majority of people living the preparedness lifestyle.
While the author could have explored the subtler dramas that happen within a family while outside forces threaten them, it’s not enough to miss this very good read.
“The Jakarta Pandemic” is not far from the truth in terms of the world we faced when the avian flu threat to humans was discovered. In America (and many civilized nations) governments worked with various private entitles to get ahead of the possible outbreak that threatened one-in-three lives. But would it have been enough? “The Jakarta Pandemic” helps answer that question.
Now that the bird flu threatens us again, “The Jakarta Pandemic” is relevant and should be considered. Paratus Business News recommends this book.