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Plague Tales School & Library Binding – May 1, 1998

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Product Details

  • School & Library Binding
  • Publisher: San Val (May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0613164105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0613164108
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,441,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Before venturing back and forth in time with this historical and futuristic adventure novel, Ann Benson was best known for her beads. The idea for The Plague Tales came to her during a period of research in London for one of her craft books; passing by an open plot of ground, she learned that it was a mass grave for 14th-century victims of the bubonic plague, inspiring her own fantastic version of the disastrous disease's effects.

The Plague Tales consists of two parallel stories: one an account of a king's physician in 14th-century England, the other a tale of futuristic London--a time when antibiotics no longer cure and "Bio-Cops," empowered to exterminate those suspected of carrying disease, prowl the streets. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

YA. First time novelist Benson tells a parallel tale of 14th- and 21st-century England, centered on the ever-fascinating Bubonic Plague. Alejandro Canches, a 14th-century Spanish physician, becomes the Papal appointment to the English court of Edward III. He is consigned the task of keeping the court alive during the Plague years beginning in 1348. The descriptions of treatments, daily life, and death during these terrible times are fascinating. Alternating chapters take place in 2005, a few years after the "Outbreak" and the end of antibiotic effectiveness against microbes. This is a world of biocops who shoot to kill if the infected try to escape, where transatlantic travel must be done in sterile gowns and masks, and "body printing" eliminates any semblance of privacy. Physician Janie Crow, in England for mandatory retraining since the drastic drop in population has rendered her surgical skills obsolete, accidentally unleashes the 14th-century plague bacillus on an ill-prepared London. This adventure grabs readers and carries them back and forth in time on the trail of the deadly bacteria. The blend of historical color and current biotechnology trends will have great appeal to young adults. It works as historical fiction, science fiction, or a technology thriller.?Carol DeAngelo, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The stories alternate between the 14th and 21st Centuries.
I can't remember the last time I actually screeched when I finished the end of a book--it was completely unbelievable and tacked on!
As a physician with an abiding interest in medical history, I must commend Ann Benson for a great read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Robin C. on June 27, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This book would be great to take on an airplane or to read on the beach if you want an exciting, but not too deep, read.
A really clever plot keeps you wondering right from the beginning. Two alternating tales of bubonic plague in the 14th century and disease outbreaks in the 21st century future keep you guessing what the connection between the two tales might be.
Both tales are equally fascinating: One is the story of a wandering Jewish physician from Spain who is unwillingly caught up in the political intrigues between Pope Clement and King Edward of England while trying desperately to hide the secret of his past. His experiences of plague in medieval Europe are frightening and grotesque. The other tale is of a woman physician, Janie Crowe, of the near future who has suffered heartbreaking loss due to outbreaks of unspecified diseases that have swept America and threaten Europe. Hysterical fear of these diseases have changed the face of modern civilization--air travelers are forced to wear sterile suits and masks and powerful Bio Cops are authorized to shoot and kill if it is suspected that a citizen harbors disease. Janie is engaged in research in London, and unearths something that has a connection to the 14th century physician.
As the book progresses, these separate stories begin to entertwine, bringing us to an interesting conclusion.
Benson does a wonderful job of making both stories compelling and equally interesting, and she gives you tantalizing clues concerning how the earlier story will come to bear on the future one. However, a slightly supernatural thread just doesn't fit with the technological bent of the book, weakening it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Davis on January 4, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In Ann Benson's The Plague Tales, the reader is introduced to two timelines and two protagonists: Janie Crow, a former surgeon from the near future, and Alejandro Canches-Hernandez, a Jewish doctor of the 14th century. The world in which both characters live is dominated by illness and death. For Janie, it's world trying to recover from the "Outbreaks", an undefined plague that wiped out most of the US, including her family. For Alejandro, it's the Bubonic Plague, which killed almost half of Europe during the 1300s. These two timelines intersect at several points throughout the book, especially in the case of Caroline, Janie's assistant, who seemingly dreams of the 14th century while suffering from its scourge dug up in the early 21st century. Benson creates a wonderful sense of suspense as the reader approaches the first third of the book. Although some of the plot points are obviously contrived, especially in the modern timeline, by the middle of the story, the reader is taken in. Benson paints an accurate picture of ancient and modern prejudice, paranoia, and desperation, as the protagonists of both times race to save their worlds and themselves. A good read.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Karen Bierman Hirsh VINE VOICE on December 22, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I loved the way The Plague Tales alternated between two time periods: the fourteenth century and a near-police state in the early twenty-first century.
I wrote a research paper on the black death and found this book to be very accurate in it's descriptions of the disease and the time period. I also liked that Ms. Benson was able to weave these two plots together so seamlessly and create a believable future London.
Her characters are very strong and I liked how Benson was able to show cause and effect relationships not just in one time period but between the centuries.
It reminded me very much of my favorite book The Eight by Katherine Neville. Ms. Benson was really able to capture the feeling of both a historical novel and a medical thriller without alienating fans of either genre.
This was a great read.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is not a positive review and tender sensibilities are forewarned.
Plague Tales and the equally excrable sequel The Burning Road conjoin a grade D level medieval romance with a ludicrous 'near future' biohazard melodrama. The romance is competantly cliched and will not burden the reader with awareness of any historical, religious, scientific or psychological particulars of the period. The tale of a Jewish medico fated to serve as papal protector to the English court is sympathetically told. But it is history for those whose wading inclinations are to barely dampen the soles of the feet. Just one example: although the protaganist becomes deeply involved with a geo-political scheme hatched in papal Avignon, there is no mention of the papal schism that has two (later three) popes contending for Catholic supremacy, (the French-favored prelate was based on French territory while the pretender held forth in Rome). Small detail? History Lite does not adequately describe the shallow authorial awareness.
But at least these chapters are readable.
Alternating chapters occur in a near future after an unidentified plague, (it is given a cute, S King type name only in the sequel), has ravaged humanity. We are never informed to what degree humanity has been ravaged, an odd but typical instance of the author's insistence that the reader be as dumbed down as her characters. We do know that the female protaganist has lost her family and has been downgraded from her medical specialty to forensic archeology because the authorities have determined that there are too many medical specialists to support. Readers inclined to wonder why support for forensic archeologists would become preferable are advised to make use of a very large "Never Mind".
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