Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Author: Shaunta Grimes
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian,Young Adult
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Format: E-Book
Copy Provided By: Netgalley
Expected Publication: July 2, 2013

After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.

Viral Nation is one of those books I expected to be one way and it turned out being another. The story started out so strong and I was instantly sucked in. It was everything a proper pandemic set up should be and then some. However, the moment it flashed forward 16 years the story just started to lose me. Rather then telling us about The reorganization of the country and seeing the characters struggle living in a depopulated planet were just pushed 16 years ahead to when they are a convenient age to put the plot in motion. Just a few pages showing West and Clover growing up could of added so much depth to not only the characters but the rest of the story as well.

As for the characters I really liked West. He was a great big brother and he gave up everything to provide for his sister. Since the Father conveniently goes missing from the story it has been up to West to ensure Clover grew up happy and healthy. While he breaks his back doing farm work and trying to win extra supplies at the Marketplace Bazaar, Clover is able to spend her days jogging or absorbed in books at the Library. Speaking of Clover, I know I'm supposed to like her but I didn't. Yes, she is Autistic and that explains away a lot of her behavior but at the root of the character I just didn't like her. She seemed ungrateful to West and also a bit judgmental. She was a walking contradiction and I absolutely feel the Autism instead of enhancing her character merely was used as another convenient plot device to explain why she was "Special". As for the rest of the characters there development simply sucked when compared to West and Clover. It's like they were purposefully kept indistinguishable so Clover could shine.

The plot development in Viral Nation was weak as well. The story had a million great ideas yet rather pick and expand on just one the story was all over the place. Clover becoming a Time Mariner just felt odd considering how many times she stated that you needed to go through the Academy to become one. Oh but she's "special" so of course we can forget that fact. Then you have this big corrupt Government sub plot that never really goes anywhere until it's time to wrap the story up. Much to late if you ask me. Another thing I found to be out of sorts was Foster City. Apparently rather than taking care of the next generation and ensuring the continued survival of the species the Government just let's all these kids be abused and tortured by their Fosters and doesn't give a rats ass about it. That felt at odds with the whole we only have enough people to work in small walled in cities and every person counts aspect of the story.

Now I know it sounds like I didn't like much about Viral Nation but that isn't the case. I found some things really creative such as the Time Mariners and being convicted of crimes based on what you "might" do in the future. That was creepy considering how one could easily fabricate you doing this horrific crime in the future just to ensure your death in the past. I sense a lot of corruption goes on where that is concerned. I also liked the beginning of the book with the virus. I would of loved seeing more death and destruction with that before starting the main story as the beginning was the best part of the entire book in my opinion.

Overall, I really wanted to love Viral Nation but I just couldn't ever get into the story. The characters were walking cliches, the romance felt unnecessary and the fact the plot repeatedly reminding me of The Matrix or The Minority Report didn't help things either. However, even though I know the story could've been better that ending leaves me wanting to know more. So while I didn't exactly love Viral Nation I still will be reading the next book to see how things wrap up. With that being said, I will be rating Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes ★★★.

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