A deadly plague has struck the planet, and nobody is sure what it is. Thousands are dying every day, and everyone that is infected will die. The United States rallies its top minds to try and combat the disease, but when research starts, the scientists are stumped. The pathogen seems to be neither bacteria, virus, or any other known organism! One radical scientist, Serena Salus, believes that the organism is an extra-terrestrial "mite" that was brought from a recent space mission, but the U.S. government refuses to publicize this theory, telling everyone that it is a genetically engineered disease from Pakistan that was spread by terrorists. Even as Dr. Salus makes progress, her team is being targeted as anarchists and their research is kept secret. When Dr. Salus discovers a plan that will only give the cure to the American elite, she has to make the extremely difficult choice of continuing with the research to save only the elite, or take her findings and run from a corrupt system...
Against Nature came to my attention recently by the author, John Nelson, posting on my blog. After reading the short description and an excerpt from the publisher's website, I was hooked. Against Nature is very different from most of the dystopian novels I have read, but its unique approach was refreshing. The main difference in this novel is that the characters are all adults, and usually genius scientists or military and governmental personnel. The way that the adults in the story are all scared by the disease makes the panic in the book even more real than when kids are scared in other such books, since adults usually are the strong, protective figures. Also, the suspense in this story came from the gradual corruption of politics and social relations between characters instead of action scenes. While some may call the lack of "action" boring, the book made me think a lot about human nature. Since Dr. Salus and Adam are both very intellectual characters, they frequently discuss their views on society. One such discussion in particular, when they discuss whether "good" and "evil" actions really exist, really got me thinking about human actions. Also, the internal debate in Dr. Salus about whether to give the U.S. the cure or not posed many ethical questions. This book did a great job at making the reader think. Another good aspect of the book is that it was very believable. Though I would hope our government would take different paths than the ones taken in the book, if such a disease ravaged our country tomorrow I could see similar events really happening, even though they seem extreme in the book. The shifting perspective from character to character was very effective in showing how the situation in America deteriorated, and what different people wanted to do based on their own interests. My only "complaint" about the changing point of view is that it was somewhat unclear when a shift in view took place, but I did get used to it as the book went on. Overall, this was a really great book that should be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.
NOTE: I must add that this book contained a large amount of swearing, so younger readers may want to select a different book. Personally, I tune the cursing out, but it may bother other readers.
Questions for Thought:
1. How would you plan to distribute a cure/vaccine to the disease, knowing that there may not be enough for everyone?
2. If you found out that you were infected, what would you do with your remaining days?
3. How would you try to survive in the anarchy that ensued from the pandemic?
4. Would you be able to walk out of the research facility with the cure, knowing that people were dying because you didn't think that you were giving the cure to the right person?
5. How do you think the world would recover from such a disease, if at all?
Please leave your comments and answers!
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