by Brian O’Grady
(Fiction Studio, 398 pgs.)
Firstly, I’m going to say that I enjoyed reading Hybrid.
Then I’m going to pick it apart.
Hybrid is just that – part medical thriller, part science fiction, part terrorist plot, part government cover-up conspiracy. And Brian O’Grady takes several recognizable tropes from each of those genres and mixes them into a story that works pretty well. It moves at a decent pace. All of the plot makes sense, for the most part, and the characters are fresh iterations of the genre types you’d expect to find in this kind of story.
Amanda Flynn is the gorgeous heroine who survived a virus outbreak in Honduras seven years ago. [If this were a Syfy Saturday Night movie, she'd be portrayed by someone like Kiele Sanchez in a tank top and khaki shorts. But most of the story takes place in Colorado Springs in the winter, so...]
Not only was Amanda the only survivor, but she also has undergone a significant change: mental and physical powers that would put her in good company with Professor Xavier. She can now read minds, control people, deflect bullets by manipulating the electrical field generated by her body, and generally do anything she wants to do. It’s only her previous good nature (she was in Honduras volunteering with the Red Cross after her husband and son were killed in a plane crash) that allows her to stay connected to her humanity.
Turns out, she’s not the only survivor of the new EDH1 virus. Klaus Reisch, exposed while working for an Al-Quaeda off-shoot organization, now has the same powers as Amanda. Only he has no qualms about using them for Evil. He even looks the part – tall, thin, pale, dressed all in black. And to make sure we know he’s got a screw loose, O’Grady gives him his own Jacob Marley in the form of hallucination named Pushkin – the dead Russian who got him involved in the terrorist cell in the Middle East.
Reisch is part of a master plan to wipe out most of the human race in a twisted attempt at population control, the brainchild of Dr. Jaime Avanti. Avanti bought into a book called The Population Bomb back (an actual book written in 1968, and since seen as pretty much wrong on every prediction), and has decided to eradicate most of the human race in an attempt to better the species – survival of the fittest, and all that.
The disease gets re-discovered in Colorado Springs by coroner Paul Rucker, while the outbreak of violence is the headache for chief of detectives Rodney Patton. With the help of Greg Flynn, Amanda’s father-in-law and retired detective, Patton starts to put the pieces together and figure out that he’s got a major crisis on his hands.
In the meantime, warned by Amanda, Dr. Nathan Martin at the CDC starts to review the cases and determines that Colorado Springs is suffering an outbreak of EDH1 along with a mutated version of it. His familiarity with the case, plus his history with Avanti, puts him at the government nexus involving the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President, trying to stay ahead of the potential devastation.
Basically, it’s a good read. It’s straight-forward, not confusing. The characters are distinct enough that I didn’t have any trouble keeping track of them, and with the exception of one or two minor players, everything was pretty cut and dried.
O’Grady’s problem is deciding just what exactly this book’s genre wants to be. At times it’s a medical thriller, complete with clinical medical terminology and isolation suits and quarantines and viruses. At other times, it’s a crime thriller with the cop chasing the sociopath. And then there’s the science fiction elements – two mutants drawing ever closer to the Ultimate Confrontation. Add in the terrorist bioweapon plot to destroy the United States, and it’s a hodge-podge.
Granted, it works in the overall scheme of things, but there are times when one genre plays to the detriment of another. And the final inevitable confrontation between Amanda and Reisch is disappointing in its brevity, to the point where it’s decidedly anti-climactic.
The end is actually where the book almost falls apart. It’s almost as if O’Grady had a page count goal, saw he was getting close, and had to wrap things up quickly to get the book in under 400 pages. There are pieces that are abrupt, short, missing detail that would help the reader understand just how everything resolves. It’s not enough to leave the reader confused or wanting a lot more, but just enough that you say “Is that it?”
I’m also hoping the typographical errors are only because I got an advance copy. It really needs one more pass from a really good editor.
Having said that, though, it’s still an enjoyable read. Especially on those Saturday nights when the Syfy movie is a repeat.