Release Day Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes
Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes
Viral Nation #1
After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed. Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future. When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.
Years ago a virus decimated the population, leaving only very few in its wake until a cure was found. The remaining citizens of the US were grouped into 50 strongholds, one for each former state. The Company, who created the cure now controls everything, from the daily dose of the needed booster, to food, and jobs. They also control the path into the future, which allows them to see future crimes and have now eliminated virtually all violence as offenders are executed before they can actually commit the crimes. Clover and West Donovan, while both born before the virus hit, were both too young to remember any other kind of life than what they have. Clover is brilliant and her mind can process incredible things due to her autism, and as a result, West has stood in as her protector, sheltering her from some of the harsher realities of their world. But all that comes crashing down when she catches the attention of the head of the Time Mariners and is drafted into service. Suddenly, West and Clover's lives aren't so cut and dry any more as Clover's trips lead to questions without answers as they realize things aren't quite as they seem. When West's life is threatened, Clover knows she'll do anything it takes to save him, even if it means going against the Company itself.
The world behind VIRAL NATION is absolutely chilling. The book starts out at the beginning of the virus's path, and shows the reader a first hand account of the devastation it causes and subsequent relief at the discovery of the cure, which I felt was an incredibly important setup as otherwise it would have been too easy to not sympathize with the characters in their fear of the virus. There's always something to be said about keeping things out of the abstract, and put right in front of your face to serve as a rude awakening. So once that prologue is over, the book fast forwards sixteen years to the present day. I knew right off from the bat from the state of control that things weren't as cut and dry as the characters saw them, but granted I was looking in from an outsiders perspective. This is really dystopian at it's finest, where the control of the society may have been set up in the people's best interests, but eventually things just spiralled downhill from there. These people really have absolutely no clue what is going on behind the world that they are shown. It was downright horrifying to me, especially as more and more secrets were unfurled. I mean clueless citizens are pretty much a standard in dystopian fiction, but this time around, for some reason I think the revelations will come at a harder blow. Perhaps it is because the whole source of control came from something so harmless, but either way, I cannot wait to get my hands on the next installment to hopefully see some of the truths be reveals.
While the world behind VIRAL NATION is intriguing, it is the characters who actually steal the show, namely Clover and West. Clover is autistic, and while I've read a few books with an autistic character in them, none of them quite captured the true essence of that like VIRAL NATION does. I really felt like I was in Clover's head and looking through her eyes gave me such a unique perspective on things. Her mind truly works differently, and it was incredible to see where she excelled so thoroughly, yet also watch her struggle through simple social interaction. West on the other hand, was the perfect, yet flawed protective older brother that everyone should have. He sacrificed so much for her, and yet he also was completely realistic in that Clover's inability to cope weighed on him at times and the frustration was definitely there. Even the most supportive and affectionate person will eventually get frustrated, so I was really happy to see those emotions portrayed. There were several other characters that left an impression on me, too many to really list here, but I really look forward to seeing more of them in the next book. That being said, there was one character who really fell flat for me, and that was Clover and West's father. Honestly, other than the intial prologue, I do not think the sections from his perspective were necessary as he really didn't add anything to the plot. Basically all he was to me was an absentee dad, perhaps he'll redeem himself in the future, but I won't be holding my breath.
I always have been a huge dystopian fan, but they seem to have become a dime a dozen here as of late. Even worse is that not only have they become rather numerous, but that they also seem to be mostly following a cookie cutter layout. So, considering the fact that there was anything but cookie cutter in VIRAL NATION, you can imagine just how much I enjoyed this book. Dystopian fans won't want to miss this.