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The Plague Tales [Mass Market Paperback]

Ann Benson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
Price: 4.89 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

Jun 1998
It is history's most feared disease. It turned neighbor against neighbor, the civilized into the savage, and the living into the dead. Now, in a spellbinding novel of adventure and science, romance and terror, two eras are joined by a single trace of microscopic bacterium—the invisible seeds of a new bubonic plague.

In the year 1348, a disgraced Spanish physician crosses a landscape of horrors to Avignon, France. There, he will be sent on an impossible mission to England, to save the royal family from the Black Death....

Nearly seven hundred years later, a woman scientist digs up a clod of earth in London. In a world where medicine is tightly controlled, she will unearth a terror lying dormant for centuries.

From the primitive cures of the Middle Ages to the biological police state of our near future, The Plague Tales is a thrilling race against time and mass destruction. For in 2005, humankind's last hope for survival can come only from one place: out of a dark and tortured past.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Dell Publishing Company (Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440225108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440225102
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.9 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 920,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I picked up The Plague Tales out of curiousity of how the author would handle what appeared to be essentially the same premise as The Doomsday Book. To my surprise, I found it much more original and more enjoyable than Willis' take on the topic.
To start, I liked the choice of characters - seeing the Medieval world through the eyes of a Spanish Jew was a nice change of perspective (acknowleging for a change that the Middle Ages actually did exist outside of England!) And the middle aged heroine in the future was a refreshing choice (you don't have to be young and perky to save the world!)
As someone who's studied history, Medieval history in particular, I take exception with some readers' comments about its being portrayed as too 'nice.' The image of putrifying bodies that permeates that time period is reminder enough that life in those times could be sometimes be nasty, brutish and short. But remember that to the character, a product of that time frame, what he e! xperienced was normal and he should not be expected to express horror with it any more than we express horror about our own lives, as primitive as they might appear to someone living 500 years from now.
I agree that the characters in the future were less well crafted, but then again, I felt the same way about the Doomsday Book. (Which, though I am critizing it, I did actually enjoy.)
Is this a perfect book? No, of course not. There are a few pacing problems, some characterizations are weak and a few leaps of faith are required. But again, I experienced more 'yeah, right' moments in The Doomsday Book than in this.
Personally I read very quickly so the length of the book, which some other readers had problems with, was not an issue. And, please, it's not heavyweight material.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Decent first novel with some flaws 17 Jun 1998
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I picked up this novel because it looked incredibly similar to one of my favorite books of all time, Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book. Like Willis' novel, Plague Tales competently manages to weave together two different stories about plagues threatening two societies 700 years apart. The characters are sympathetic, and while the plot does occassionally bog down, it for the most part moves at a decent pace. For a first go, Benson's engaging novel has understandably drawn some good reviews.
However, there are some problems with the book. About 400 pages into the book, Benson introduces a fantasy element that is completely at odds with the realism that permeates this novel. In an interview Benson has stated that this element is religious in nature, one that is supposed to make one of the main characters rethink God's presence in the world. I, however, found this intrusion highly jarring and annoying -- especially since it helps bring resolution to the novel's events.
Also, there are too many unanswered questions and loose ends left over -- these are the type of questions and threads that usually form the basis of a sequel. Normally, I don't mind when authors produce a sequel or write a book intended to start a series. However, I don't like it when the novel is blatantly left open for a sequel when it's not advertised as the beginning of the series. (Benson's website also mentions that she is indeed writing a sequel).
Apart from these two flaws, I'd recommend the book to most people. Those who read this might also want to pick up Willis's novel and read them back-to-back for an interesting contrast in how two authors handled similar material in different fashions.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Bloated Multi-Genre "Adventure" 5 Jun 1998
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Plague Tales" is a novel that starts out with a good premise, is reasonably well researched, and fails through an inept execution.
The cover blurb says "historical novel and futuristic adventure". The novel is two love stories, mild Sword n' Sorcery fantasy, and (again) mild Science Fiction. I'm not certain what genre that places it. I suspect the author wanted to write three novels and decided to write them all at once.
"Plague Tales" has several good points, but in general it is just so "bloated". It runs for almost 700 pages. This could easily have been cropped to 500, if the author had used less then three adjectives per sentence.
The technology and background history are uneven. The epidemiology is better than the history or "far view" technology. I personally wondered how the Eucalyptus tea sipped in the first chapter reached Mediaeval Span from undiscovered Australia or how one "wiped out the memories completely" of a PC. In addition, the use of magic undermines the tech and a technological future the use of magic.
Finally, the novel lacked "hard edges". Even grim situations are "nice". In the middle ages, life was cruel, brutish and short. The author's middle ages read like a costume ball. In a future ravaged by antibiotic resistant pandemics life was also cruel and short. Yet, the Soccer Moms keep a stiff-upper lip.
A good editor might have saved this novel. "Plague Tales" has just too many words to read to reach the few good parts. There ought to be a law that first novels be 350 pages or less. In addition, the author spread herself too widely over too much history, characters, and technology. There are better books to read at the beach.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It had its moments....
Although Ms. Benson has created a medical thriller as well as a historical fiction novel, the plot in her novel can be slow and hard to get through. Read more
Published on 4 Sep 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars reminded me of _The Doomsday Book_ by Connie Willis
although it was perhaps a bad choice to read right after i'd read the Doomsday Book (another plague-medieval time/modern plague-near-future timeframe book with a markedly... Read more
Published on 30 Aug 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Change from cut and dried Medical Thrillers
I read the sequel to this book first so at times I felt like fast forwarding as I knew some of the outcomes, but I still found myself drawn in by the characters. Read more
Published on 13 Jun 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars A VERY interesting read!
This book was a little slow to start (but then again, most novels are), but once the two timeframes became familiar to me, I enjoyed every minute of it! Read more
Published on 5 Jun 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant first book
I truly enjoyed this novel. I seem to be into books dealing with virus and the end of the world as we know it lately, and this is an engaging read. Read more
Published on 1 Jun 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Book
After reading reviews and the hype, I was disappointed in this book. The two stories never really connect, and in the modern story, though it has an intriguing premise in the... Read more
Published on 3 May 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars Something better awaits you. . .
If you enjoyed this novel, which certainly has its moments, I highly recommend you read THE LAST DAY, by Glenn Kleier. Read more
Published on 28 April 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but Fatally Flawed
I've just read the amazon.com readers reviews of The Plague Tales and feel like I'm adding my voice to the chorus rather than adding any new thoughts, but perhaps it's worthwhile... Read more
Published on 9 April 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a fantastic read...
I was fortunate enough to buy this book for a dollar at a library sale. What a buy! I can't put the book down. A well written and interesting story. Read more
Published on 29 Mar 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars Good historical perspective, poor microbiology knowledge.
A good story, with good historical background. However, Ms. Benson should have reviewed some basic microbiology before writing her book. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 1999
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