I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Bat Out of Hell: An Eco-Thriller by Alan Gold
Published by Yucca Publishing on September 1 2015
Genres: Adult, Thriller
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Bat Out of Hell was one of those books that ended up in a much different place than it started, at least for me. The story gets off to a strong start as we witness a horrific outbreak of an Ebola-like virus in Indonesia, a virus that kills 100% of people who contract it only hours after they become sick. As you might guess from the title, bats turn out to be the carriers of the virus, and I was immediately drawn into the story. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before I realized that bats were simply the springboard for a political drama that revolves around a brilliant and attractive female scientist, several radical environmental groups who are trying to protect the bats, and the President of the United States. Yes folks, the president is one of the main characters in this story. Sure, he’s a fictitious president, but for some strange reason he rolls up his sleeves and throws himself right into the middle of the bat crisis.
Had the story simply followed the horror of an incurable virus spreading first through Asia, then hopping to other continents, and eventually making its way to the United States, I would have enjoyed it much more. But after a while, it really had little to do with the bats, and more to do with the president’s decision to eradicate the infected bat colonies, and the lengths the crazy environmentalists go to in order to stop that from happening. Throw in murder, romance (!) and long, rambling paragraphs about how humans are destroying the planet, and you have a very…interesting story.
I want to start with the things I did like about the book. Gold definitely has a knack for writing an exciting—though over-the-top—story. If his goal was to scare us into taking better care of our planet, then he succeeded. He’s obviously done a lot of research on bats and how their bodies are carriers of many strains of viruses, and it was fascinating to read about how stress causes those viruses to become super-charged and mutate into something far more dangerous than rabies. I think the idea of introducing a political angle to the story was a good one, and the author makes sure to show both sides of the issues. But somewhere along the way, the horror story I was expecting got lost in a somewhat cheesy soap opera-style tale that, while highly entertaining, wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
I have to talk more about the president’s role in the story, because some of the funniest moments revolved around him. I’m sure the author didn’t intend for him to come across as a humorous element, but I thought it was an interesting choice to involve him so heavily with the team that is trying to solve the scientific mystery of the killer virus. I’m not an expert on the president by any means, but I doubt that the real president would take the time—or have the knowledge necessary—to involve himself so closely with a team of scientists. Not only are they invited to stay at the White House while they work on the health crisis, but the president holds impromptu meetings in the Oval Office while they try to figure things out.
Even more amusing was the fact that the president, who is married and has children, goes out of his way to give Debra a private tour of the White House! Debra’s reaction to the invitation is priceless. As he leads her down the quiet and empty corridors, she wonders if this is her “Monica Lewinsky moment,” as the tall, attractive and muscular leader of the United States seems as if he’s about to make a move on her. I won’t spoil the outcome of that scene, except to say that the President isn’t the only attractive man who catches her eye, wink wink;-D
I was happy to see a female scientist head up the scientific research group, but unfortunately Gold doesn’t use her to her full advantage. Debra turns out to be smart enough, but she ultimately comes across as being much more interested in every single male in the vicinity, and she winds up as a clichéd romantic character.
The biggest issue for me, however, was the writing and editing. There were so many moments where a good editor could have trimmed the story and eliminated a lot of the repetition. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I read this paragraph, in one form or another: “The animal responsible for spreading the virus could be bats, but it could also be birds or insects. Most likely it’s bats, but we don’t want to rule out birds or insects, because many diseases have been spread by birds and insects. The bats are stressed from human encroachment on their feeding and breeding grounds, so it’s most likely bats. But we can’t rule out the birds or insects.” I just wanted someone to figure it out, already!
And yet—I did have fun with this story. As long as you go into it knowing what to expect, it’s quite entertaining, and despite the heavy-handed message about the terrible state of our environment, it was very educational. Also be aware that, if you’re fond of bats, there are some parts in the story that might upset you. But if you love political intrigue, over-the-top characters and a sprinkling of social commentary, then Bat Out of Hell might be right up your alley.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.