Eighteen years ago, the microbial apocalypse christened Black Ep had virtually wiped humanity from the globe. The survivors of the epidemic have now reached adulthood and are committed to the task of rebuilding civilization. But an ideological rift has divided the survivors into two separate factions—one determined to resurrect the human race, the other obsessed with improving humanity via genetic manipulation.
And as the factions clash with one another, a new biological threat rises from the ashes of Black Ep, an even deadlier contagion with one purpose: mankind’s extinction.
“A compelling work that will appeal to fans of speculative fiction and apocalyptic thrillers.”—Midwest Book Review
Sagan revisits the future world of his well-received debut, 2003's Idlewild. The narrator of that story, Halloween, is now a minor character; there's a new generation trying to survive after the "Microbial Apocalypse," when the Black Ep virus wiped out all but a handful of humans. Sagan focuses primarily on the younger set, upon whose shoulders the hope of a future rests, telling the story through numerous first-person narrators. An early chapter from the POV of Malachi, the "right-hand machine" of Halloween's contemporary Pandora, succinctly explains the setup and lists the players (readers may find themselves frequently returning to it). What's left of the population is divided into two rival colonies. In the north live a group of young "posthumans," biochemically engineered girls who are immune to Black Ep, and their guardians. The liveliest and fiercest of these adolescents is 15-year-old Penny. In the south, there's a religious colony of people drugged to the gills against the virus, one of whom is the philosophical na f Haji, whose poetic narration makes a nice counterpoint to that of the increasingly angry Penny. Penny, Haji and Pandora provide distinct voices, but other narrators muddy the waters. A killing and the threat of a new plague bubble under the plot's surface but never take center-stage urgency. Sagan's sharp observations and rich imagination entertain, though, and lay a strong groundwork for volume three.