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  • Virus
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2.8 out of 5 stars
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on 5 December 2011
Whilst I finally ended up quite enjoying "The Missing" (which I also believe has been released as The Virus), there's a lot of frustrating things about Sarah Langan's book.

Firstly, I found the back-cover to be slightly mis-leading. Reading it back after I'd fininshed the novel I guess it was a relatively accurate summary but "The Missing" is effectively a zombie/apocalypse novel & the cover doesn't really spell this out. It's also a very slow-read & took me until at least half-way through the book to "get into" it & even then I was never truly engrossed until perhaps the last 50 pages. Additionally, whilst not everyone wants a true hero to root for in a book, Langan seems to have decided that the reader will get quite the opposite & in doing so focuses on a group of characters who are anything but likeable. Whilst most novels of the horror genre naturally focus on evil, the reader is often provided with a likeable central character which helps bring a balance to the negativity but with Langan even the "heroes" of the novel have little good about them which makes for a pretty depressing read.

The writing itself was good with a decent plot but I feel that if the book's 400 pages was trimmed to around 300 the reader would have been rewarded with a far more enjoyable experience as once it's been established what is happening to the town in which the book is set, it's a lot of the same thing & a bit of a slog to the ending. My first & in all likelihood last Sarah Langan novel.
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on 27 October 2012
This book was in many ways a disappointment. I started with high hopes because the writing was vivid and at first seemed admirably taut as we are introduced to a well rounded character Lois, taking her young charges out into a spooky wood for a field trip. Unfortunately the more I read the more problems developed.

One major issue is the amount of characters and the devotion to describing them- there are so many introductions and so many pages detailing each individual back-story that the plot is forgotten and confusion sets in about which one the author is now describing. Sometimes whole chapters are devoted to character issues (The House Divided pp. 146) that have no apparent connection with the plot and are dull distractions at best. Frankly it seems self-defeating; the more time she spends writing about the characters the less I am interested in them and paradoxically the less distinctive they become. The author employs the `stupid name' gambit for added memorability: one of the leads is call Fenstad Winthob; another labours under the name Alfred Sanguine- no- those won't do.

All this makes for slow going, the plot when it surfaces is confused: a boy gets killed apparently (I thought that racoons ate him) but then he seems to appear as a ghost and then as a corporeal boy scavenging for food.

Then there are the plot `howlers': The woods of Bedford (the source of the weirdness) is only a `few miles' (easy walkable distance- many characters do so) from the town where all the characters live- and yet the kids who go there on a school trip: "...had never seen anything like this before."

Towards the middle of the book when half of the towns children are running wild in these woods no one in the town seems to have noticed, certainly not the main characters who sit around getting angry with each other over boyfriend troubles.

Langan seems to have a problem visualising time as well as distance. When one girl is being rushed at (pp 142):

"The distance closed Ten feet. Eight feet. Five feet. Displaced wind rushed against her as her mind fired off segmented thoughts like a string of firecrackers. What dark eyes you have she thought, and then: the better to swallow you with my dear. And: rah rah team! And finally: run. Run. RUN!"

....So a mad man is RUNNING at you, when he's 5 FEET AWAY (about 2 arm lengths) she thinks all those things and then she turns around and runs (successfully, for a while) away- WHAT!, has time stood still or something?

There are practical issues- how does one character, who- the day before- has been beaten up, thrown against a wall and broken an ankle (full plaster cast), make love enthusiastically and drive a car without complaint?

The author's writing is generally of a high standard yet some dialogue is improbable, one character says: "He didn't walk like a man"- is this really what someone would say? Some verbs seem wrong too: would a piece of china chipped off a plate really `cruise' past someone's ear as though at leisurely pace?

Unfortunately these drawbacks led me to abandon the book. I think the author needs to focus more on the story- a good editor might help.
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on 9 May 2008
It's easy for book reviewers to compare new horror writers with Stephen King. Most have never read any horror before and think the genre owes everything to King's more popular novels or their big screen adaptations. Because the genre is so small (and disappearing so quickly from bookshops) publishers depend on those Stephen King comparisons or quotes to emblazon a front cover and hope for extra sales. This second novel by Sarah Langan is compared to early Stephen King by a reviewer of The Times. I can see that, if you think of Stephen King's early work as taut writing, fast action, tense mood, grim humour and expert depiction of small towns in Maine.

This novel seems to pick up from where Sarah Langan's first novel ended, though you can read both separately. Middle-class haven Corpus Christi is a few minutes away from ghost town Bedford. During a school bus trip to Bedford, one of Corpus Christi's children goes missing. When he returns, he brings inside of him something that he found in Bedford's surrounding woods. Very quickly, things degenerate in Corpus Christi, its smug citizens not knowing what hit them before it's too late.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this novel as much as I did when I picked it up at my local library. Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy horror page-turners.
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on 8 April 2011
This book is a disappointment. The early pages start promising with character building and the introduction of an innocent school trip turning bad, building great tension and fear. Sadly, that's where it ends and I fought through to the end, chapter by chapter, refusing to allow the book to beat me.
The issue is not the plot itself, but the loose, scattered manner to which the author develops it. The pace is slow and action doesn't get going until the middle pages, but even then there is a feeling of the author needing to "fill pages". One chapter introduces a character beautifully. Page after page of descriptive text about her upbringing and torrid relationship with her alcholic father and the journey from nothingness to beauty queen. By the end of the chapter she's dead. Next! It's like a short story wedged in between two chapters and left me confused and cheated.
The story also jumps around from household to household and I found it very hard to become engrossed in a book that didn't allow me to build the characters as I was never 100% sure who was who.
Finally, if you are going to encompass a virus into a small town then keep it there. The talk of US Army surrounding the town and the virus spreading far and wide is unnecessary when there is no further information offered and the suggested world domination of the bug is dangled like a carrot but in no way followed up or developed.
I'm a big "zombie" fan, and the plot here is strong, but poorly executed.
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on 25 January 2011
I could only read two thirds of the way through this book. By that time it did not seem it was going to improve, or become coherent.
What could have been a good idea, just seems to be, to this reader anyway, a mess, with minimum plot, cardboard characters and little suspense.
If it is like Stephen King, then it's like him at his worst.
Don't bother with this book.
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on 13 June 2008
How many different ways is this book bad? We have a virus that can read minds and turn people into flesh eating zombie-like creatures of the night; now that wouldnt be too bad (well, it would but we can leave that for a while) but there is no explanation of where the virus came from or how it evolved or what the response from CDC is. We are then told that this virus is an old virus that was responsible for, your gonna love this, the fall of the Sumarians and the Mayans. This is a juvenile plot at best. I only gave it one star because I cannot give it zero stars!
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VINE VOICEon 13 June 2008
Virus is a short story masquerading as a novel where the plot centres around a virus, of psychological power, or potentially of the realm of the supernatural. Each chapter is a struggle to complete as the myriad of characters meander off-plot almost incessantly, with their histories told usually paragraphs before they expire, which somewhat removes any page-turning qualities. There are striking similarities to her previous book, The Keeper, which unfortunately carried the same issues (and some similar parts of the plot too). Overall, Virus has no likeable characters, at times is hard to follow and ultimately offers little reward for actually getting through it.
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on 17 January 2008
I picked up Sarah Langans 1st book, The Keeper, after reading a review in the Times which said the words "female stephen king". That was me sold. Had been looking forward to the paperback of Virus for a while and was not disappointed, its a stonking read,a page turner with great characterisation, you really understand and care about these people, and its set in a small town in Maine, what more do I need to say! Am looking forward to plenty more from Sarah Langan.
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on 20 October 2014
Mental but I enjoyed it...Some very disturbing bits that were OTT
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on 2 February 2015
Good read.. similar to stephen king..
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