Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Book Review: 'Scourge' by Charley Pearson

Scourge by Charley Pearson
‘She realized she was aware. Thinking. And therefore alive.’

Illinois author Charley Pearson retired after a career with the U.S. Navy, at the headquarters of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, primarily overseeing chemical and radiological environmental remediation after the end of the Cold War, releasing closing facilities for unrestricted future use with EPA and state agreement. He now writes fiction – THE MARINATED NOTTINGHAM AND OTHER ABUSES OF THE LANGUAGE and SCOURGE.

Charley has that rare ability to infuse copious amounts of humor laced through a story that is anything but funny: his knowledge of medicine shines through his biochemist vision and his ability to sculpt a story of global scourge by a deadly virus is almost too close for comfort with the ‘news’ about such concepts currently blasting across the internet. How does he do it? With a skill that is equal to the best of writers – even at this early stage in this writing career. He creates characters, strange at times but with whom we can identify, and moves in the big government beasties (his emersion in the nuclear arm of the military provides valuable credibility), making a threat to the end of the life on the planet that much more terrifying.

But his writing style is rich in colorful language – like that of a poet – as we read in the gentle opening of his book – ‘Twenty Years Before the Scourge - Stacy Romani dashed around minty-smelling shrubs and wild grapevines dangling from a humongous, hollow-trunked ruk, probably a white oak. She dodged an evil branch out to snag her dark auburn hair― her bestest feature, with its odd black streaks, even if Mrs. Penfold thought she was too grown-up to say bestest anymore. Not that her nanny was hard to please most days, but she always seemed to come up with new rules. Faster now. A race atop a fallen pine, a raspberry ripped from a passing bush, a leap across the cackling, stone-filled stream. A flurry of mourning doves, their wings beating out a warning cry, scattered through the fluffy-leafed trees. Stacy skidded to a halt in the mud. “Sorry!” The birds settled higher up, and peace reclaimed the woods. There would be nothing else to scare. Good enough. She flew down the path, arms straight out like wings. A few minutes later, she plopped down in the far southeast corner of the estate, panted a moment, and restacked the rocks over a tiny grave. Her goldfish Pedro, gone ever since she was a stupid little kid, starved when she’d forgotten to feed him. But now she was almost ten. She’d learned everything she’d ever want to know about death, and it had better leave her alone. She added a stone, got up, and took off. By the time Stacy had circled the grounds once, she’d pretty much met the requirement to play in the yard. Sort of. It was a huge place, after all. It took her six times throwing a rock to get from the back door to the fence, and even more side to side. Why did she have to be out here anyway? What was the big secret? Yeah, the house was filling with flat-faced adults, relatives she almost never saw. But that shouldn’t ban her from the rec room, not when her parents were coming home from a super-long trip. Her father might play a game with her if he had time, after he bawled her out for breaking her aunt’s favorite flintlock pistol, and her mother likely had some cool new science books. Stacy paused by the rotting sandbox, another leftover from her distant past, and inspected the windows along the rear of the house. No one in sight. Perfect.’

Quiet opening for the plot that follows – ‘Financially independent, biochemistry genius Stacy Romani grows up off the grid, while her Roma family takes advantage of her knowledge for their own gain. Watching his family farm struggle, and traumatized by mass slaughter, Aatos Pires wants to heal animals but gets seduced by industry and goes to work for a big pharmaceutical company. When Aatos’ co-worker Trinity creates a deadly doomsday virus, it puts the world population in jeopardy as it spreads exponentially. . .with no cure in sight. Stacy and Aatos work alone to find a cure, as the CDC and FBI close in. Will they find a way to stop the plague or will it be the end of the world?’

A completely engrossing and entertaining novel – and step away form it far enough to hear the echoes of true possibilities - perhaps as close as tomorrow? Charley Pearson is one very fine wordsmith/artist/poet. This story should be a film! 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.