Review: Pandemic by Daniel Kalla

Title: Pandemic

Author: Daniel Kalla

Publisher: Tor Books [2005]

ISBN: 975-0765-35084-8

No. of Pages: 407

In China’s Gansu Province there’s an outbreak of a deadly virus similar to the Spanish Flu that killed 20 million people in 1919. Dr Noah Haldane and a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are called in to help the authorities identify and contain the virus. Just as things seem to be under control there are further outbreaks in Hong Kong and London. On top of having to address the medical issues the authorities are worried that the disease may not be spreading naturally.

This is a fairly standard thriller with a  serviceable but not terribly unique plot. Virulent disease outbreaks, the threat of terrorism, doctors running around saving the world in the nick of time have all been done before. But more familiar than that is the roles and attributes assigned to various groups and people. The main characters are all good-looking, the Chinese are horribly authoritarian, the bad guys are all fundamentalist Muslims and the Americans are all heroes. The cliché ratio was just a bit too high for me. That aside, the book moves along at a good pace and there’s lots of action scattered across the globe. The ending is a little predictable but there’s only so many places a thriller can go so that’s far more forgivable than the cliché count.

Kalla’s made a valiant attempt to make the characters more than two-dimensional but, at least as far as the main characters are concerned, hasn’t really succeeded. As well as being a hard-working, brilliant, emerging pathogens expert Noah Haldine is a loving father going through some marital troubles but the threads dealing with his personal life all felt a bit forced to me. The other main character is the American ‘bug czar’: the female head of Counter-Bioterrorism who’s also a brilliant, sexy, workaholic going through a marriage breakdown. You don’t need me to actually write the phrase ‘sexual tension’ do you? Kalla’s done a much better job with the minor characters such Noah’s fellow WHO doctor and the Egyptian policeman who plays a pivotal role in uncovering the terrorists’ activity. For me they were far more engaging and interesting although their appearances were too brief.

This is Kalla’s first novel and he’s written four more since then. Because I’ve been struggling to feed my medical thriller habit since I gave up on the rubbish Robin Cook writes these days and because there are some elements here that show potential I’m prepared to give him another go. But only if I can mooch something.

My rating 2.5/5

Other stuff

On a slightly off-topic note I’m going to rant about the author’s website. I’ve ranted about the issue of bad author websites before but, seriously, I don’t think it gets much worse than this. Why bother? There’s a nice photo of the author in his scrubs (in case you missed the fact he’s a doctor) and a whole load of over the top pull quotes from reviews and some extremely dull video. There’s not even a synopsis of any of his books (presumably you have to click on one of the dozens of links to online stores for that but I metaphorically stomped off and didn’t click anything).

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