New release indie book review: The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin

Indie medical thriller; science thriller; SciFi. No star rating given for indies. (Why?)

SUMMARY (from amazon): Dr. Sydney McKnight, a young physician battling the deadliest influenza pandemic of all time, joins forces with Dr. Casper Jones, an odd new research virologist whose arrival coincides with the virus’s advent, and whose presence raises more questions than answers. As scientists around the world search for an explanation for the virus’s high mortality rate, Sydney’s distrust of Casper grows, especially after she discovers him injecting an unidentified substance into her patient. Despite a heavy patient load, rebuttals from her boss, and an increasingly strained relationship with her boyfriend, Sydney is determined to learn the truth. But what she finds will plunge her into danger and change her life forever…

ScienceThrillers REVIEW: The Seneca Scourge is a debut indie thriller by real-life physician Carrie Rubin. I became aware of Rubin’s work first through her blog The Write Transition at where she consistently posts brilliant, funny, and sometimes scatalogical tidbits about life, the universe, and everything. I knew I had to read her book.

The Seneca Scourge is a genre-blending novel. The first 50% is solid medical thriller with strong scientific elements. It’s set in a hospital, features a female infectious disease physician as the protagonist, and introduces a deadly new influenza in a typical way (index case coughing throughout an international flight). But the book doesn’t stay in the worn “plague thriller” path. Halfway through is a twist which launches the book into science fiction. Without specifically giving a spoiler I’ll tell you that the plot twist introduces a whole bunch of plot issues that I expect will divide readers into two camps: those who rolled with it, and those who couldn’t suspend their disbelief enough (and quit reading). If you ignore some of the questions nagging you as you read (why did she…if he did x then why not y..etc.), I think you’ll be satisfied. Rubin’s focus is on the main character, the medical setting, and the virus. Readers who keep their attention on these parts of the plot–which are well done–will enjoy a good story.  That said, hard-core SF fans should stay away.

Rubin does a particularly good job with the medical / clinical aspects of this novel. Her depictions of hospital activity, hierarchy, and procedures are both accurate and engaging. Her insider status is made clear by details such as adding a personal code to a pager number to indicate who is calling. She uses but does not overuse medical terminology and tosses in some hospital slang (“death motel” = morgue; “vampire juice”=blood sample) to good effect. As the new epidemic unfolds, her characters display solid clinical logic backed up by test results.

Writing a “plague thriller” is tough. Rubin scores very well in her science by introducing an intriguing element involving prions. She does okay in her depiction of the impact of the plague (excellent for ‘in the hospital’ effects, not as good for community effects which would be much bigger), and uses an original trick to solve the biggest plague thriller problem of all: how to end the story. Her main technical error in the plague story she acknowledges in her Author Note: that the way contaminated research specimens are handled in the story is probably not realistic. But who knows what people would really do under such circumstances?

Summary: The Seneca Scourge is a prototypical “beach read” medical / plague thriller with science and science fiction elements, written by a medical insider who has an easy-to-read writing style. It’s fun, fast, original, and won’t strain your emotions.

Unusual words: SARS, ARDS, influenza C, prion, CDC, ICU, epidemiologist, negative pressure, rhonchi, epidemic

Parent alert: rare, appropriate profanity

FCC disclaimer: A free e-copy of this book was given to me for review. As always, I made no guarantee that I would read the book or post a positive review.

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2 Responses to New release indie book review: The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin

  1. techeditor says:

    Why no star rating for indies?

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