As a long time fan of authors like Robin Cook and Michael Crichton, I LOVE medical thrillers. The more viruses, bacteria, plagues, and epidemics, the better, at least as far as I am concerned. Just mention etiological agents and I get really interested. So, I started reading The Patron Saint of Plagues with a lot of excitement and was more than prepared to like it.
Unfortunately, I was tremendously disappointed in this book.
First, I might argue that this book was mischaracterized by calling it science fiction – realistically it was more of a combination speculative fiction/mystery. It was set 50 years or so in the future. The author did a poor job of world-building here and I spent the first half of the book asking myself why it was set in that time.
The characters suffer from the same lack of development as the world-building does. The characters are unbelievable and barely fleshed out. They are also constantly contradicting themselves for reasons which are never explained.
The protagonist, Dr. Henry David Stark is a perfect example. At various times in the book, he is referred to by three or four different names. Also for no apparent reason, he sometimes (and only sometimes) speaks a pidgin English that no one else in the book (including his family) speaks. This is never explained.
What the reader gets out of this are plastic, predictable characters doing predictable things leading to a predictable ending. The only surprises were the parts that didn’t make sense.
I found this book poorly edited – and by this I don’t mean spelling and grammar errors. Those things were fine. I mean the guidance an editor SHOULD give a writer. Little things like telling him when the story doesn’t make sense. Or when a scene should be cut. Or when the dialogue isn’t working. Or that the story isn’t flowing. Or that he has thrown information out there and never followed through with it.
The description for this book said that author Barth Anderson has won awards for his short fiction work. Since this was his first novel, he may not have been ready for long form writing. Although, honestly, the reviews for his second novel, The Magician and the Fool, were not much better. I think one that of the reviewers for that novel summed it up best by saying, “Barth Anderson may be a skilled writer, but he is a terrible storyteller.” Unfortunately, I have to agree.
This book is available in a Kindle edition.