Ever wonder what all the fuss was about when bird-flu/swine-flu first made the rounds? Was it paranoia? Or pharmaceutical companies trying to make a quick buck? Did you watch Contagion and think `what if they didn't develop a vaccine in time?' or `what if it were more transferable?' The saving grace for most pandemics is that they often start at a single spot and can be controlled to some extent by quarantine methods and this novel deals with the consequences when this isn't the case.
If a virus several mutations ahead of the strain being studied by the CDC and WHO was released simultaneously in busy centres across the world it would spread like wildfire and in this book it does. Taeya, a doctor working for the CDC is fortunate enough to have earned a place in one of the sterile clinics whilst the world outside slowly dies from disease, rioting, or Government sanctioned suicide. But, when the clinic starts to turn healthy patients away she speaks out, resulting in her dismissal. What would you do? Naturally incensed she decides to steal some supplies before she's booted out, which is where she picks up Rick.
This was an enjoyable and addictive read - I wouldn't argue that it was intense, as some might want, but there were enough details about how the world screwed up without ramming too much technical science down your throat. The majority of the storyline is based on surviving and is told from the first person POV of both Rick and Taeya, so you get a nice mix of opinions. There are the standard scenarios that you encounter in a survival/post-apoc novel such as gangs, looting, riots and the `settlers versus the raiders' attitudes but this is all a larger backdrop for character development.