“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for” – Albert Camus
Even though John Lonergan’s novel ‘Antidote: Clandestine Warfare In Modern Russia’ is set in a futuristic world, it deals with a threat that is very contemporary in nature. Set in the backdrop of the souring relations between Russia and the Republic of Georgia, a group of nationalists from Georgia sets out to avenge the violence unleashed upon their country by the Russians by creating an epidemic for which there is no cure. Helping them in this mission is Joseph Karashvili, a brilliant microbiologist who creates a strain of super bacteria. While on the other side of the planet in America, Robert Cook, a member of an elite police force with a PhD in microbiology himself, inadvertently crosses path with the epidemic problem while investigating the theft of microorganisms from a lab. With time running out and the casualty list increasing every day, Cook must involve himself in a massive manhunt spanning across different countries to find the doctor and the antidote capable of stopping the epidemic.
Although the novel can be called a futuristic thriller with international politics and terrorism angle thrown in for good measure, at the very core it is a modern day cop and robber story but involving antibiotics and bacteria instead. And instead of using bio terrorism merely as a plot device and then relegating the actual fighting to take place between an archetypal American hero and a Chechen villain, the author takes you into the microscopic level and shows the fight taking place inside our bodies. The detailed descriptions of how the bacteria strain acts inside the human body is a novel experience and is a master stroke from the author, taking this thriller to a different level, making it more cerebral and yet very approachable in its presentation. He also stresses on the very real dangers of bio terrorism and a case of antibiotics eventually becoming ineffective against a constantly evolving group of bacteria and viruses due to over prescription of such antibiotics.
And since the story is set in future, the author has a lot of fun painting a highly advanced futuristic world which isn’t too outlandish and is in fact highly conceivable, considering the rapid pace of changes and developments taking place in the field of computing, robotics, AI and information technology. There are some fascinating sections in the book with an acutely intelligent and intuitive Artificial Intelligence, and super cars, buildings and even bathrooms that lights up your imagination thinking about the possibilities such a future will hold. The police officer investigating the crime and solving the puzzle is Mr. Robert Cook, a highly skilled, optimistic and intuitive officer with a keen eye who goes into the details of a crime, a trait which he probably picked up from his science and microbiology background. There are no over the top theatrics from him and in fact he gets the job done in a calm and serene manner.
Antidote: Clandestine Warfare In Modern Russia has a very good first chapter and the best hook any fictional book could hope to begin with. The book is an easy read, especially with its smart writing and short paragraphs which ensure that the reader’s attention is retained throughout the length of the book. Lonergan has also provided good detailed background story for each character, nobody is presented as a cardboard cut-out and the interactions and dialogues enhances the different points of view. The geography of the different places has been put to good use and it will transport you into the heart of the action. With Joseph coming back with Robert to America in the end, you can only imagine what more fascinating adventures are in store for us with these two brilliant minds coming together. And along with Daisy, the all knowing virtual assistant with him, this hero surely deserves a few more follow up adventures in which we can explore his personality better.
Print Length: 281 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 150036116X