“The Last Plague” by Glen Page is the opening novel in a series, which presents a new scenario on the Biblical apocalypse and offers a great treat to all conspiracy theorists out there. I enjoyed this novel although it took me around 200 pages to get into it, which is saying much since the novel is 440 pages all in all. But let’s start at the beginning.
My opinion on the cast of characters and their connection to each other is that “The Last Plague” resembles a mystical soap opera with a great rooster and a thick web linking everyone to everyone else. In the fashion of conspiracy theories there is nothing normal in how they are connected, usually by death or some mission against another character. Personally I was confused most of the time who was who, did what and wanted to kill who and for what reasons. The main storyline revolves around Dr. Douglas Hunter, who after operating a young girl with a ripped abdomen, one ovary missing and the other hard and black, begins to investigate the mysterious circumstances of her condition and how she was found on old Yankee Road all alone. Needless to say his innocent enough research on the matter attracts the military’s attention. General McFarland works for the Sprudith organization, Children of Satan, interested in the found girl. Each step down the road for Douglas involves more people with their own agendas: friends, family, spies, Biblical prophets, mountain people with special gifts and the Sprudith, deadly adversaries. Against all odds Doug and his team solve most mysteries surrounding the case and the Doctor has to face that his involvement was destined one way or another.
It’s all pretty enigmatic the way I presented the plot, but alas the subplots spin round and round, so this is as clear as it gets for now. My particular problem with the novel concerned the character introduction. I am not used to get hit out of the blue with a new character, when a new chapter begins. It’s not that it’s not possible for such an introduction to work, but considering the lack of explanation of why this man or woman has entered the stage puzzled me. I had some moments to put the book down and register the new presence. Also my main reason not to get in the novel as fast as otherwise and finish it weeks before. Once all have been brought to the game, around page 200 or something the novel is easier to comprehend in that particular aspect.
Something similar is concerned with the flashbacks. I am not sure whether this issue is due to the incompetence of the author himself or the editor. If you are willing to buy this book, then you have to be prepared to read up until a point in the present and then after the next line slip back in time. The first time it happened I thought I skipped a page or something and yet there it was, the flashback didn’t start with a new paragraph. For some reason some flashbacks are divided properly and so are changes into subplots and other characters, but then again the remaining pop up with no identification. As a reader I like to be swept by the story and forget when I started reading, which is damn hard, when I have to stop rewinding and explain what happened a line ago.
Of course these are technical aspects, minor things for tweaking, but as it turns out spoil the story enough. It’s sad when something so small can make reading the first half of the book painful for the brain. But do not think that this is a negative review. I am just ranting about the headaches I had early on. “The Last Plague” is an opening novel in a series, which means it’s bound to be a bit slow with setting the stage, introducing the characters, foreboding the apocalypse and all. You get the best of a soap opera, conspiracy theory, Biblical and Indian folklore, plus CSI. What more can you actually want?
Although Page’s prose is not something extraordinary or remarkable, the dialogues between his characters engross the reader. At least this happened with me. For one thing their topics went to riddles, medical mysteries, world war two and apocalyptic hints, so it’s rare to fall asleep reading this. At one point I thought he was overdoing the whole murky act in the story. When too many events occur and leave only questions, the reader is bound to get lagged or something. Thankfully this hasn’t been the case. Page managed to create a reasonable balance between subplots and tied the knots at all the right places. CSI is the best term to have used here, since it’s methodical crime solving that unlocks the whole story further down the road.
I am not sure whether the genre expects will name this fantasy, but for me it has enough paranormal to call it that. The Sprudiths and the Mountain People are tribes, which have the same gifts to bend space, but stand on polar sides of morality. Another attribute of theirs is that they have wolves and tigers as familiars. Both serve their gods, Lucifer and well God and both are engaged in a battle, the biblical battle between good and evil. It may sound standard, but mixed with all other components, the world building makes an enthralling tale. Biblical characters also appear in the novel as immortals, who have awaited the omens for the apocalypse to take action. What makes them compelling is their engagement with the characters. In most books gods, entities and immortals are devout of any interaction. They exist for their cause and they do not show any emotional connection to the players in the game. In “The Last Plague” it’s worth to mention that such characters from Sprudiths, Mountain People or the immortals are more connected with the world of the living. They love, they have conflicted pasts and had to make tough choices. In the end even villains are stuck in the grey zone.
As a conclusion, “The Last Plague” is an entertaining title, once you overcome the technical obstacles. The Biblical Apocalypse has been done many times before and yet this one presents in a new light, stretched between human drama, medical horror and mystical powers. I wouldn’t mind reading the next installments.
PS: In order to keep the review at a length, which is not boring for people, I myself know that too much rambling can lead to a very bored articled reader, so I omitted most of the details to avoid turning the review into a short story.