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Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

In Joshua Alan Parry’s Virus Thirteen healthcare is a major concern for the government in a seemingly not-so-distant future. Tired of dealing with the rising costs of heart disease, AIDS, over-indulgence, and cancer, the American government focuses its attention on erasing them from the human genome. Through scientific breakthroughs and preventative care the nation has become free of natural genetic mutations.

At the center of the world’s genetic breakthroughs is a private research firm called GeneFirm. As lead researchers for GeneFirm, James and Linda Logan have spent their lives curing the world of disease, including James’ crowning achievement, cancer. As James and Linda prepare to announce their discovery of a way to eliminate cancer, James suddenly falls ill with a brain tumor, and a deadly super-flu begins to ravage the world. James’ seemingly impossible illness begins to raise many questions about the research done at GeneFirm. As James recovers and Linda works to find a cure for the super-flu many dark secrets within GeneFirm begin to unravel.

The use of the timeless question of whether scientific advancement countermands nature is the prevalent theme throughout Virus Thirteen. By combining slow-building mystery and suspense with science fiction Parry creates a thought-provoking, cautionary tale about scientific advancement. He places the question of whether destroying genetic abnormalities like diabetes, AIDS, and cancer would actually destroy the natural order of things at the forefront of the readers’ thoughts to create a cautionary tale of scientific advancement. Parry takes his time in building a believable world, in which a government agency polices the nation’s health problems; outlawing cigarettes, alcohol, and fast food. He mixes the social aspects of our health problems with the scientific to make the reader feel comfortably set in the future while still able to question our present situation.

On the downside, Parry uses many characters to slow the pace of the book to a slow simmer. While the main plot line sits on the back burner, several characters that have a minor role get a prominent position in the narrative. At times, this can affect the pace, causing the reader to rush until the narrative picks the main plot back up

Overall, Joshua Alan Parry’s Virus Thirteen is a suspenseful page-turner that will raise as many questions for the readers as it answers for them. The slowly building pace and attention to detail make this a must read for fans of biological mysteries like those of Robin Cook, Kathy Reichs, and Michael Palmer.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Tor & Forge Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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