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3.8 out of 5 stars34
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 30 September 2007
I bought this book in an airport because I wanted something to read and it was the best thing on offer. However, I was pleasantly surprised and ended up finishing it in a couple of days.

The story centres around an outbreak of a nanotechnology 'plague' that was intended for medical use but is released from its lab into the general population. The nanobots are capable of reproducing inside all hot-blooded animals, consuming the host from within, inside of a few hours. As with most of these stories, a few people escape the plague, but in this case it is not due to usual excuse of natural immunity. The nanobots are unable to function below 70% of atmospheric pressure so the only survivors are those that managed to escape to altitudes about around 10,000 feet above sea level.

The story follows two main groups of survivors. The first group are living on a mountain in Colorado and have resorted to cannabalism in order to avoid running out of food. They are aware of a similar group living on a nearby peak and become aware that somebody is trying to contact them from that settlement. The second group of people are the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, including a nanotechnology expert who is trying to find a way to destroy the nanobots loose on the surface.

I won't go into any more detail as it will ruin the story, but I would recommend this book to anyone interested in sci-fiction, disaster or adventure stories. It reminded me of a cross between 'The Stand' by Stephen King and the story of the Andes plane crash, 'Alive'.
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on 26 November 2007
I found the storyline interesting and it carried me through to the end, wanting to know what conclusion would be reached. I did feel that the story ended rather bluntly, where a lot more could have been said. Perhaps there is potential for a 2nd instalment?

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to emphasise with any of the characters and found it difficult to get interested in their individual plots. For example, I felt that Sawyer could have been more mysterious at the beginning, to pull you through to find out more. But I found his character quite flat and it wasn't until the middle of the story that he became more interesting.

By the end of the novel I felt that there was something missing. Whether it was lack of character development or the end that seems to just fizzle out, I'm not sure. But I look forward to seeing more Jeff Carlson nooks in the future as I think he has the potential to be great. I enjoyed the hard science and his viewpoint of how civilisation would collapse and be re-built, albeit in little pockets, was extremely thought-provoking.
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on 10 December 2007
Post-apocalyptic tales usually fall into one of two camps: the plucky lone survivor living hand-to-mouth, or the happy-go-lucky hippy commune who discover modern society was overrated. In Plague Year, Jeff Carlson, avoids both these tired tropes and paints, to my mind, a realistic portrayal of people coping as best they can in terrible circumstances.

Perhaps coping is too generous a word for the day-to-day existence that a band of strangers eke out on a cold, barren mountaintop east of San Francisco. Survive might be a better word. For although there is empathy and a community of sorts, there is also the brutal calculus of existence: if he eats, I don't. Despite these bursts of selfishness, what comes across is how very human these characters are. They make hard choices, and they suffer for it.

The second thread of the novel follows an astronaut who is aboard an international space station and has witnessed the devastation that the machine plague has wrecked on the world below. Unlike the grim physical quest for survival on Earth's high ground, her battle is a psychological one. As a nano-tech expert she is frantic to aid the fight against the machine plague, but how she might do this is unclear. Her confined unease is well depicted and provides a good contrast to the heart-in-mouth adventures of those below.

A "page-turner" in the best sense of the word, Plague Year presents a well-thought out, politically viable apocalyptic scenario, and marries it with compelling characters who you care about. Highly recommended.
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on 29 February 2008
To set the scene the world is infected by a plague of nanites which eat anything warm blooded that they come in contact with, but deactivate in areas where the air pressure is less than 70% that of sea level. This produces mountain top islands that are inhabited by those who have escaped the plague.

Plague Year is a novel variant on the old plague survivor genre that unlike many such stories is actually believable. On the negative side, Carlson's addiction to short sentences can irritating some times and the political parts of the story don't really work.

The book is strongest when it deals with how people cope with the situation, and weakest when it moves into politics and conspiracies but overall is a good read.
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on 11 June 2011

A totally unique entry into the world of apocalypse. Here we see a world where a 'nano-plague' has distinguished all life below 10,000 feet. We get to see the survivors eek out a sorry existence in the harsh, barren enviroment of mountain tops, unable to travel below the 'threshold'.

The story is more technothriller than horror, but the feeling of isolation that the characters feel is really well done. In the later novels, the story becomes more epic and happens on a global scale, with international conflict between nations. Damn you China!

In addition to the many well-rounded characters and an accurate representation of a crumbling Government, the main character, Cam, is likeable yet flawed in the ways that all good protagonists should be. His emotional turmoil is later expounded by the physical agony that all of the plague survivors experience and this leads to a constant mood of pain, anguish, and bleak depression. But the glint of human spirit is present on every page and that's why we keep reading! We want the world to make it and we bleed, burn, and starve with the characters as they struggle to survive each day. In my mind that's what all worthwhile apocalyptic novels should strive for...

If you haven't yet read Jeff Carlson's work, I would suggest you purchase the entire Plague Year trilogy as I guarantee that you will want to move straight on to the next novels in the series as soon as you finish the previous ones. I brought them seperately, and the wait between was agonising, so don't do that to yourself. This story is a trilogy so buy them all!

Iain Rob Wright
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on 20 November 2009
Found this a pretty shallow read but I did finish it, last section of the book seemed to pick up a bit and like a mug I bought the sequel. Just to realise that he's stringing it out for a trilogy: It's bloated, not a lot happens, it's almost as if he keeps adding stuff to make three novels out of a basic plot that would be okay as a short story.
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on 23 December 2012
You know that feeling when you find a new author? It's exciting, like discovering a new flavour of ice-cream that seems created just for you. I almost don't want to share a review of this because I want to keep the find to myself. I'm now looking forward to reading the rest of Jeff's output.

This was Jeff's first novel, but you wouldn't be able to tell, because it's written with confidence in deliciously mature prose. I almost believed that Jeff had worked in a nano-tech lab and spent time aboard the International Space Station, because his research was so solid.

The tale itself is a gripping, well thought-out examination of a nano-tech plague that threatens humankind, and the trials of the survivors. Add to that the search for a cure, and the political manoeuvrings of surviving factions, and you have a book that works on many levels, with something for everyone.

As referenced on the cover blurb, the nano parts of the book did remind me of Michael Crichton. But I think Jeff's better than Crichton, as he has more of a handle on his characters - it's not just a cold examination of facts, you understand and care about the people involved.

Great first novel - recommended!
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on 8 March 2013
Having stumbled across Plague Year, I am delighted to find out it's part of a trilogy.

This is a really creative take on the concept of an apocalyptic plague, with a barometric restriction on the spread of the plague leaving small pockets of population isolated on high ground. The sense of despair and isolation of a small group of survivors is compounded by the hardship of surviving in such a harsh wilderness, high above the tree line, before the arrival of a stranger forces a change. This harsh life is contrasted with those on the Space Station seeking to save the world, or at least work out what to do next. There were tones of Alive, Z for Zachariah, and a little of the Hunger Games through this, with the Machiavellian government manipulating the cure (and surviving population) for global political advantage. The plot and the characters were distinctive but very believable, and well researched.

A really good canter of a book that was a real treat to pick up. I have a new favourite author in Jeff Carlson - thoroughly recommended.
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on 21 November 2008
I had high hopes for Plague Year, the synopsis read well and it's an interesting twist on a familiar theme. Introducing nanotechnology and it's effects is a good starting point. But from there I'm afraid this book falls down. The concept is good but the characterisation is weak. We never really get engaged with anyone and consequently I read this not really caring what happened to any of the characters and only a passing interest into the outcome of the whole book. Where you want to have some depth, to sense of smell what's happening, never really develops. We skip from one scene to the next and maybe there lies the problem - it feels like it has been written as though there was a film in mind rather than as a book. In summary, a nice idea but a rather thin execution.
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on 6 January 2013
Loved this book (I only discovered jeff recently through Starship Sofa), and found the characterisation good and the plot very plausible. However, he states that the nano locusts feed on the warmth of the blood of mammals and bird and therefore leave alone insects, reptiles, amphibians etc. The idea that these are 'cold-blooded' is false; their blood is at the ambient temperature... so wouldn't they be susceptible to the locusts in summer? The other problem I thought of is: wouldn't the world be screwed because of all the nuclear power stations well below 10,000 feet? Still loved the book (not as much as the Frozen Sky though), and recommend them to all.
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