Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Super-Powered Prose: Virals by Kathy Reichs
Super-powered fiction in prose form has come along way from Weird Heroes and Wild Cards first made the idea work in the seventies and eighties. Many writers have tried their hands at characters with super powers since, but it took even me by surprise when one of those names was Kathy Reichs.
If you do not recognize the name, you’ve probably not read too many forensic mysteries. Ms. Reichs has a successful series of books focused around the character of Temperance Brennan. Tempe sometimes goes by the nickname of Bones, or in the case of the successful television show based on the series, always goes by the name Bones. I have never really been a fan of the series in either form, but when I heard the concept for her new young adult book I knew I needed to give it a read.
Virals is the story of Brennan’s grand niece (she’s older in the books by a bit) Tory, a young girl living on a small island off the coast of Reichs’s home city of Charlotte. Tory only recently moved to the city following her mother’s death, but quickly finds herself embroiled in a mystery.
The story takes two interconnected paths as she finds a dog tag on the island where her father works for a scientific facility. It is while she investigates the tags that she discovers and rescues a captured dog in a remote lab of the facility. That rescue will alter Tory and her three friends Hi, Shelton, and Ben forever.
The dog has been infected with a lab-created parvovirus, designed to infect not just dogs but humans as well. The virus has unintended consquences for the four teenagers, as they all suddenly end up with powers closely linked to the animal they rescued.
While they all suffer through the transformation their new power brings to them, the dog tags lead them in to a murder mystery with huge ramifications for them and their city. In the end, only their powers will allow them the freedom and skill needed to uncover the secrets of the crime.
Ms. Reichs uses her background in forensic science to help shape the continuing story, but unlike the Bones novels never lets it overwhelm the tale. While I could nitpick about a few sudden (if minor) leaps in logic or the skills of the four teenagers being just a bit much to believe, none of that really matters in the end. Ms. Reichs crafts a quick, easy to read story that just flashes by page after page. The tale flows extremely well and makes the entire book hard to put down. I actually read the last two hundred pages in one sitting, an odd occurence for someone so used to reading different things at once. But Tory and friends’ tale is just compelling enough to keep you turning that page.
This book seems clearly set to be the beginning of a series (and maybe a set up for another TV pilot as I could definitely see it easily turned in to a overly-pretty-cast mix of Gossip Girl and Veronica Mars. Still on its own, Virals is an enjoyable read and that’s why it is Recommended.