on October 30, 2012
Caine's Pestilence is a book with the blackest of humor - I would even go so far as to say that the humor is fulgin, which is the blackest of blacks, so black that it sucks in all light in; similar to a black hole. John Bascomb, the author, has done an amazing job of not only sticking it to the Federal Government, the Judiciary, Executive, and Military branches but also all departments and agencies that work for them. He also takes shots at Non-profit groups, scientific organizations, the political system, their parties, the healthcare system, and the prison system and everyday people. He is an ambitious man when he gets his dander up. Mr. Bascomb was running on all cylinders when he wrote this book, and even when I read the marketing blurb on the back, and I knew it to be a ironic look at a possible future, it gave me chills just thinking about what he proposed. I extrapolated from his proposed scenario, and came up with a nightmare scenario, and was shocked how someday it all might come true. I cannot thank the author for scaring me so soundly, but I must say, he was spot on in his fulgin humor. This man knows his stuff.
THE PLOT:In our story, John Caine works at an investment banking firm implementing adminstrative best practices, he later goes to work for the NIH (National Institutes of Health) as the Director of Administration. His job is to institute best practices adminstratively for the lab and make sure everything logisticaly and security-wise are running smoothly, but what they don't count on, is that John is a inveterate tinkerer and very curious to boot. He starts taking things home from the lab to learn the science going on there. As they were marked for destruction he thinks its a no harm/no foul situation. Until he takes something home that was completely infectious. He plays around with it, injects it into some lab mice. Then, his wife breaks into his lab and smashes everything, in her anger that he is spending more time in the lab then with her. This causes some problems and releases the virus that he made out into world in form of mice and the pet monkey he also stole from the lab. When the FBI and the NIH get there, John has cleaned up, but the damage has already been done, the virus has been released. The monkey goes to Africa, and so do the mice, where human testing is done. The irony of the situation is that the virus does amazing things for mankind; four amazing things to be exact. The government will do everything in its power to stop him and his virus - which they name Caine's Pestilence.. This is the new ultra-liberal government led by Nancy Pelosi as President. The deck looks seriously stacked against our hero, with all the government plotting against him, and yet, there are people behind the scenes that look like they are trying to help, but are they trying to help John or themselves? The surprises keep coming until the very last sentence of the book. Very tightly plotted. You have to keep your eye on the ball with this one. So many people, so many motives, and poor John, caught in the middle. Meanwhile the virus spreads... For plot I give this book a 9/10.
CHARACTERIZATION: The characters in this book were not cartoonish in any way, which being a satire, you might expect, as Mr. Bascomb is decidedly poking fun at some of the highest positions in the Government of the United States, as well as Institutions that surround it. He takes those shots in a thoughtful and incredibly detailed fashion from the President on down. Caine was deeply characterized, his wife Carrie, similarly done, the FBI agent Kellerman, and Nicole Kurmas the Scientific Director of the NIH who headed up the Investigation against Caine, was similiarly characterized, even George W. Bush who was in the cell next to Caine in Gitmo, was characterized quite well, as was Joe Biden, and one other who I won't name right now, as not to spoil the surprise. Mr. Bascomb, while maintaining his fulgin humor casts light on our characters thoughts and inner feelings. A classic case of this is in the Afterword of the book written by the lawyer of Mr. Caine, Pat McQueen, who was about to be given a once in a lifetime proposition by the government. He was a simple fellow, who loved strippers, and duck hunting. He had no ethical problems with moving from John's side of the case to the Government's, after Caine's conviction. The Government kept tabs on him, and even took him duck hunting in Argentina - clearly a conflict of interest. They were going to make sure that Pat was in their pocket, so to speak. Pat only cared about his own pleasures - the fact that he got paid, while hunting and going to strip clubs. Life was simple for Pat. The fact that Caine got the sentence that he did never really perturbed Pat, he just rolled with it. An ex-jock, without an ounce of self-examination. He settled for the things he loved to do, without worrying about right and wrong. For characterization, I give this novel, an 8/10.
IMAGERY: Bascom did quite an outstanding job of putting very disturbing images into your head. I think again, it was the fulgin humor that did it. After reading his lines, I was so disturbed by his ideas, that I could not help myself from having disturbing images flash into my head of a future entirely gone off the rails - a future plagued by self-interested, ultra-liberal pin heads that were not interested in solving problems, but were only interested in getting and staying elected while directing the billions of tax payer dollars their own way. There is an image that will always stay with me from the book; John has taken flight in his Honda, driving down highways, always headed west. He hits a roadblock, and sees some policemen tasing someone who looks like him because he won't put his hands on the car and assume the position. The cop keeps sending jolts down the taser until the man drops to the ground. John realizes that they think the man is him. When the man is on the ground he tries to explain further that there must be a mistake, but another cop clubs him with a flashlight at the back of the skull. Lights out - the man is dead, though the cops call 911, it is hopeless, and the ambulance carries off his corpse. They wave the rest of the cars through, as the policemen say to their captain "but it was all done by procedure, was it?" The Captain reassures them that it was, as their real suspect drives right past them. That's what fulgin humor gets you, nasty visions that have no basis in reality. For imagery, I give this novel a 10/10.
THE GORE SCORE: There was very little gore in this novel. Bascomb limited his gore to more psychological hack and slash of values and traditions than your basic blood and gore. There is one attempted murder, and one police beating that resulted in a death on a highway, as well as two shootings. A number of beatings in jail occur as well. There is little violence otherwise, the humor in the book does not focus on it, and it is not gratuitous in any way at all. I give this novel a gore score of 3/10.
DIALOGUE: Because of the fulgin humor, some of the dialogue in this book is priceless, as my Mother would say. The irony just screams at you from every passage, if you care to read it that way. I did, and the dialogue is absolutely hilarious. Caine's Pestilence can be read as a cautionary tale and scare you senseless about what could happen, or it can be read as the fulgin humor I believe the author meant it to be and be ironically hilarious. Life is irony and I amuse easily, so you could say that I am always amused, and when you put a book like Caine's Pestilence in front of me that goes up by a factor of ten. For Dialogue, I give this novel, a 10/10.
PACING: The pacing in the book was lickedly split quick as you ride on the coattails of John Caine through the whole novel in a first person POV. As he narrates, you find you need to take in what's coming at him from all sides, to have a glimmer of a chance of figuring anything out. There were no transitions as it was John all the way down. The story did not slacken nor slow at any point. The pages flew by. The novel was over before I knew it, leaving me with mixed feelings but a smile nevertheless. For pacing, I give this novel, a 9/10.
ENDING: The ending of the novel was so surprising, you could have knocked me over with a pin. Jaw Drop! If you were observant you knew something was up, but that something turned out to be a REALLY BIG SOMETHING. WOW! The ending was the perfect icing on the cake for this book, and while still fulgin, was perfect for people who like to finishing novels with a smile on their face. You can put me in that category. Smiling after finishing a novel is like Good HouseKeeping Seal of Approval, in my mind at least. If a novel can do that, as well as make me think about it for weeks afterward, then I write the review. That's the way it works with me. I don't just cranks these things out people, I review only works that I think other people will be interested in, the others I don't bother with, they might as well end us in a dustbin somewhere. I won't add a review good or bad to a writing disaster. Just my opinion. For Ending, I give this novel, a 9/10.
THE UPSHOT: The book is tightly plotted, swiftly paced, with fabulous characterization of most of the characters, the gore is minimal, the imagery is astounding, the dialogue is key to a lot of the irony, and as such is hilarious. By far, this book, for a darkly humorous, medical thriller, is singular in its execution. I don't think you'll find another out there quite like it. I must admit, that after the scene I described in imagery, my depressing meter went off, while ironic, it was also deeply sad. The man the police killed was a preacher with a wife, kids and a congregation who will dearly miss him. Ping went the depressing meter, I had to take a break and decide whether I was going to continue. After some amount of time and inner debate, I picked up the book and continued - and I'm so glad that I did! The scene really got to me, but that's what good writers do, stir up emotions. Bascomb did that job well in this novel. Every page brought up some new tradition, institution, or government group that Bascomb took a shot at. If you have any sacred cows going in, just know, everything is fair game in this book. I recommend this novel to Republicans who will especially enjoy it, conspiracy theorists, military, scientific and medical people, people who like a good mystery, and people who enjoy fabulous satire, have sardonic humor, trenchant wit, or simply love that darker, blacker comic side of life. This is as dark as it gets without dealing directly with death. John Bascomb is a master of fulgin humor. He gets my vote for humorist of the year, and I have his t-shirt, which reads, "I've got the Pestilence". I won this book from GoodReads First Reads, and I want to thank them very much for their fabulous choice of books once again. Always spot on and helpful to the end. This novel gets a score of 55/50, which gives it a mid 5 star rating.
MLB SCORE CHART
50 - 60 5 STARS
40 - 49 4 STARS
30 - 39 3 STARS
20 - 29 2 STARS
10 - 19 1 STARS
00 - 09 0 STARS