Q Island by Russell James © 2015, Samhain
Q Island is Long Island, which is Quarantined after an epidemic breaks out. Those infected become, for a brief time, healthier and more intelligent than ever before, but they soon devolve into depraved lunacy, using their newfound strength and energy to kill with abandon.
I’ve resisted dystopian tomes simply because they are EVERYWHERE, but I was drawn to Q because of its premise—the epidemic starts because a hoi polloi foodie club eats mammoth meat. That’s really happened—people have thawed mammoths frozen in glaciers for tens of thousands of years and eaten the still-preserved meat—Neolithic noshing! That’s the premise, anyway, although it fell away for the rest of the book. Q is obviously the first of a series, so the mammoth connection may reappear in a future volume.
The story centers on four characters: doctor, Samuel Bradshaw, who first encounters the virus and is called on by the CDC to find a cure, Melanie Bailey, work-widow mom to an autistic child, Aiden, and Jimmy Wade, criminal scumbag. Jimmy and Aiden become infected, but, for reasons yet unknown, stay in the enlightened state of the disease rather than devolving into lunacy. While the quarantined island descends into bloody chaos, Jimmy becomes a crime kingpin, and Melanie tries to keep Aiden’s infection a secret (if you’re infected, those who aren’t will kill you). But Jimmy and Aiden have a psychic connection and enmity. Jimmy thinks he will be evolutionarily elevated if he eats Aiden’s brain. Meanwhile, Dr. Bradshaw figures out the military, which is supposedly protecting the greater US from the island epidemic, has ulterior motives, and he puts himself at great risk to find a cure.
I applaud James for keeping the dystopia a locally isolated phenomenon instead of scorching the globe with it. That was relatively realistic. I did wonder why the bloodthirsty infected didn’t turn their rage on each other and wipe themselves out, but that would have quickly spoiled the mayhem and the fun. Maybe that issue will be addressed in the sequel, Russell?
Q had action-packed scene after scene involving bad characters who got worse as society broke down, versus good characters who got better in crisis. It was an enjoyable breakneck ride on a cool premise I found plausible. My final question—how did Aiden and Melanie got out of the drone? It wasn’t built for passengers. Maybe that will be addressed in the sequel, Russell?
Until then, Q Island is an island unto itself on my keeper’s bookshelf.