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A Survivor's Tale Paperback – July 17, 2014
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Dave Hoing is the co-author, with Roger Hileman, of the historical novel Hammon Falls and a collection of short fantasy stories, Voices of Arra. He also has a solo collection of short fiction called Tales of Earth. All three books were published by All Things That Matter Press. In real life, his tenure as a Library Associate at the University of Northern Iowa can be measured on a geologic time scale. He lives in Waterloo, Iowa, with his wife Joni, his mother-in-law Dorothy, a Toto-like dog named Doodle, and a cat he calls, well, Cat. His adult stepchildren Jon and Jovan have emigrated to the fantasy land known as California. In his other life, Dave is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America who pokes his fingers into a lot of creative pies. In addition to writing, he dabbles in composing, drawing, painting, and sculpting. Music is his first love, but he concedes that he’s better at stringing words together than notes, so there are times he must tear himself away from one kind of keyboard to work at another. Dave’s website can be found at www.hoingandhileman.net.
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All Things That Matter Press
*A Survivor's Tale* is an apocalyptic lament contained within a slender volume of 142 pages which can be enjoyably read in a couple of sittings. It consists of a stand-alone short story entitled "City of the Dreadful Night" that is presented as a prelude to the accompanying eponymous novelette. Both works are a mixture of historical and science fiction, though the prelude leans more towards the former while the novelette more towards the latter.
Twenty-second century Earth is ravaged by the pandemic "Lazen's Disease" ("LD") - named for the researcher who first identified the affliction and later succumbed to it - which is virtually a hundred percent fatal. Crazed mobs roam the streets of London and menace the government's infectious diseases research center and the scientists striving to combat the outbreak. Brilliant but arrogant, ever-secretive infectious disease specialist Janis FitzHaven has gone renegade, stealing one of the government's dwindling number of chambers capable of time travel to visit the 14th century of the Black Death apparently in the hope of finding the cause of LD and a cure. Her theory is that the Black Death was not bubonic plague, but rather a form of LD currently threatening the existence of mankind. The mystery is why a significant number of those afflicted with the Black Death survived if it was the same disease as FitzHaven suspects.
FitzHaven is forced to steal the time travel chamber after being banned from using one as a result of an unauthorized excursion to the Whitechapel of Jack the Ripper's reign of terror in an initial attempt to find a cure for LD. This adventure on her part is the subject of "City of the Dreadful Night," a period piece of historical interest that offers a well-drawn ambience and a suspenseful dark charm for aficionados of historical fiction. Its tie-in with the succeeding novelette becomes poignantly apparent towards the end of "A Survivor's Tale."
On her trip to the year 1348 at Tilgardesle (also known as Tilgarsley) - an Oxfordshire village, located near a monastery, that was abandoned in the wake of the Black Death sometime prior to 1350 -, FitzHaven manipulates the idealistically romantic and combative medieval historian and linguist Stone (just "Stone"), her husband of a sort - with loosely binding relationship contracts having apparently replaced marriage in the social mores of the 22nd century -, into accompanying her on her latest quest for a cure into the past, ostensibly to serve as a guide and interpreter.
After Stone signals the 22nd century research center - through the time travel chamber's "umbilical" that anchors it to its home time period - that Janis has gone missing, the United Kingdom's prime minister recruits American infectious disease specialist Lara Rede to lead a team back to the 14th century in the hope of recovering Janis FitzHaven or at least her research data and notes. Rede and the team do so begrudgingly as neither FitzHaven nor Stone are popular figures within their scientific community.
Meanwhile, while searching for the errant Janis, the disease-resistant Stone forebodingly searches the pits where the corpses of the victims of the Black Death are to be burned. He encounters two men charged with conveying the bodies there. Stone discovers that one of the recent arrivals, a teenage girl, is still alive; a trifling concern to the disease-ridden corpse valets, much to the enragement of Stone. After scuffling with the men, the anachronistically gallant Stone rescues the girl and takes her back to the chamber. Using the limited knowledge he has learned from FitzHaven, Stone administers Janis's antibiotic medicine to the girl, whose name he shortly learns is Elisabeth, who seems to recover. Despite his relationship to his missing conjugal mate and the girl's initial aversion to him, Stone falls in love with the waif half his age.
Janis FitzHaven is furious upon returning and reuniting (after her harrowing encounter with the zealous local bishop who had imprisoned her as a witch) with Stone over the misguided actions of her lover; not out of jealousy, but rather out of Stone's interference with matters beyond his comprehension that now threatens dire consequences. FitzHaven eventually is forced by events to confide in Rede - who, though not in FitzHaven's professional league, Janis recognizes is humanity's best remaining hope to combat the 22nd century pandemic - concerning the true nature of the disease and her work.
The exquisite interweaving of historical and science fiction that is *A Survivor's Tale* lifts the work well above most other apocalyptic offerings. The historical and epidemiological aspects of the work are well-researched, plausible and eminently interesting without becoming burdensome. The book addresses profound ethical issues of the situational variety in a thought-provoking manner and is tinged with overtones amenable to readers of feminist sensibilities as female scientists with stratospheric IQs and often foul tongues (though the work is not all that profane by today's standards) command men with self-assured authority.