I totally enjoyed it, surprisingly so, as I’m typically leery of post-apocalyptic material. It is the gratuitous nihilism of the genre that tends to numb me. However, with A.R. Shaw’s “The China Pandemic” the caricature of dystopian mayhem is displaced, instead the reader is treated to a well-developed humanist portrayal of individual and community survival despite awful odds. The sense of responsibility borne on the shoulders of the main protagonist Graham, is palpable. His cautious generosity, taking care of a motley crew of survivors at great personal risk–some being children, is admirable to witness. Seeing the personal growth of all the characters as the narrative unfolds is satisfying; they are at times pitiful, vulnerable and cruel, yet, at other times they are resourceful, compassionate and selfless. This all seems plausible to me considering the extraordinary pressures everyone was living under.
Adding to the tension of this well-written novel is the unseen presence of a well-organized compound of Preppers. The addition of this group leads to further intriguing plot lines; and raises questions about the amazing lengths ordinary men and women are prepared to go in order to survive. Appropriately, the reader is consciously aware that all the resources of civil society have been eviscerated by the pandemic, and that the threat of anarchy, lawlessness and death remains a constant in every chapter. For instance, any chance meeting with a stranger may well have dire consequences, whether it be contagion, assault, abduction or even execution. Then there is the change in the social order; a segregation between the Carriers (those immune, but carrying the virus) and the Preppers who are understandably struggling to remain disease free. I found this to be immensely provocative…and emotionally powerful.
I’m looking forward to reading A.R. Shaw’s next book in the Graham’s Resolution series now that my misgivings of the genre have been so effectively allayed.