Sunday, 9 August 2015

JUGGERNAUT by Amelia C. Gormley

JUGGERNAUT by Amelia C. Gormley
Pages: 378
Date: August 9, 2015
Details: No. 0.5 Strain
            Copy received from Riptide
            Publishing through NetGalley

The blurb:

They helped destroy the world. Now they have to survive the new one.

For rentboy Nico Fernández, it’s a simple job: seduce a presidential advisor to help cement approval to launch Project Juggernaut. He’s done similar work for General Logan McClosky before, and manipulating people for his favorite client beats the hell out of being trafficked for slave wages in some corporate brothel.

Zach Houtman feels called to work with the most vulnerable outcasts of society. But his father, the Reverend Maurice Houtman, insists that Zach work for him instead as he runs for Senate. Zach reluctantly agrees, but is horrified to see his father leave behind Christ’s mandate of love and mercy to preach malicious zealotry and violence instead. Zach even starts to suspect his father is working with fundamentalist terrorists.

When Project Juggernaut accidentally unleashes a deadly plague that claims billions of lives, Nico and Zach are thrown together, each bearing a burden of guilt. With only each other for safety and solace, they must make their way through a new world, one where the handful of people left alive are willing to do anything—and kill anyone—to survive. 

My thoughts:

When I read Strain, almost eighteen months ago, the book took my breath away. It shocked me, enthralled me and left me thinking about the subjects it broached for days after I’d finished it. In fact, there are still days when the story-line or a detail from it jump into my mind and bring me back to the events in that book. With the amount of books I read it is safe to say this is not something that happens very often.

So when I discovered that both a prequel and a sequel to Strain were to be released in quick succession this summer I was a very happy bunny. Juggernaut tells the story of how the virus that wiped out most of the human race came to be unleashed upon the world through eyes of two young men who unwittingly find themselves caught up right in the middle of the disaster.

Nico Fernández is a celebrated rentboy who doesn’t think twice about doing his favourite client, General Logan McClosky, a favour. The night with the presidential advisor leaves Nico traumatized and injured but that is nothing compared the devastation he experiences when he realises his compliance was instrumental in setting of a global disaster of unimaginable proportions. My heart broke for this charming young man on many occasions during this story. The guilt he carries with him everywhere is overwhelming. Add to that the fact that he is a highly tactile person and suddenly finds himself afraid of intimacy and it’s difficult not to be touched by the turmoil he’s going through.

Zach Houtman is the quintessential  good guy. Very religious he firmly believes that God’s message is one of love and tolerance. When his preacher father veers off to a political career, Zach doesn’t like the changes this brings and he fears his father may be in cohorts with religious terrorists. By the time he is faced with the choice between saving a stranger and staying with his father and younger brother, Jacob, it isn’t a dilemma anymore and he leaves. From that moment forward Zach tries to define faith as a personal rather than a universal truth. His journey as he comes close to losing his faith altogether is a thing of beauty.

The young men are attracted to each other and Zach has remarkable little problems embracing his feelings for Nico (or Nico himself for that matter). The fact that Nico has infected himself with the Alpha strain of the virus puts serious limits on how close they can get though.

Zach and Nice travel towards what they hope will be safety together only to be separated. Individually they have to find the courage to live in a world where all the rules have changed and the love they’ve developed for each other may never have a chance.

I loved this book almost as much as I loved Strain but reading it was somewhat of a strange experience for me. It was wonderful to read about the events that led to the story as described in Strain and Nico and Zach were wonderful characters and very easy to fall for. In fact, I think it’s impossible to read about these two men and not have your heart break for them while you wish a solution will be found somewhere, somehow. The dilemmas they face and the constant choice between selfish desires and what is best for all involved made this a heart wrenching and captivating book.

However, despite the book being a prequel it felt at times like an ‘in between’ story, a bridge between what we’ve read before and what may happen in the next book, Bane. Juggernaut , as far as I can tell, gives the reader all the information they need for a climatic conclusion. I’m not sure which book I’d advice readers who haven’t read either Strain or Juggernaut yet, to read first. What I can say is that this book can easily be read before Strain and that I didn’t miss the information provided in this prequel while reading Strain. And, more than that, now that I have all the necessary information and all characters are in place, I can’t wait to read Bane (coming September 21st).

The world as created by this author in these books is fascinating because the premise of a military super-weapon creating  a devastation as described is, to me, all to plausible. Watching these characters as they try to hold on to common decency and their morality in a world that doesn’t invite or accommodate either is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking and I have no doubt Bane will tear me apart as the characters I’ve come to love face what will without a doubt be unimaginable decisions and sacrifices.

I’m very impressed with everything Amelia C. Gormley has achieved in these books. Her writing is masterful, her characters multi-dimensional and her devastating story-line draws you in and holds you captive long after you’ve finished reading the last chapter.

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