Sector C by Phoenix Sullivan. Available through Amazon and the usual outlets.
Sector C is a skilfully crafted narrative, a medical thriller. Set a few years into the future, Sector C takes us into a territory that the recent Swine Flu and Bird flu epidemics threatened to but did not did not – a fully blown, species jumping, fast acting pandemic. But instead of being the inevitable outcome of fast mutating viruses, this one was the accidental by-product of genetic engineering by humans.
The story follows Donna and Mike, a vet and an epidemiological investigator brought together when their respective investigations into unusual illnesses merged, and suggested the source of an outbreak. On a ranch with the probable “Patient Zero” they uncover the machinations of a profit-hungry company.
My benchmark for a good story is not just sympathetic main characters – and Sector C has two of those – but three dimensional antagonists. Ms Sullivan has created a gem with Walt Thurman, a man unapologetically prepared to capitalise on the devastation he has inadvertently unleashed, and in Dr Volkov, the geneticist whose research work was directly responsible for the pandemic. I applaud Sullivan for her portrayal of the scientist with a God-complex, simultaneously compassionate and ruthlessly self-interested; devoted to finding a cure, yet prepared to withhold it from those most at need.
Sullivan deftly weaves her story between the personal accounts of families and ranchers devastated by the pandemic; a company in “damage control” (trying to contain the damage to their bottom line, not the population) and the two heroes who find themselves needing to dodge some unexpected creatures. She also paints a frightening picture of a world where no animal or food source can be trusted.
Overall, Sector C is a seamless balance of science and action. Sullivan has a knack of making scientific concepts easily accessible throughout the narrative without bogging the pace or sounding like a text book. Well done!