Thursday, April 25, 2013

DMQZ: My review

Sometimes a story relies heavily on its characters to make the story compelling. Other stories draw the reader in with an elaborate, believable setting. DMQZ is the latter. Sci-Fi fans, you'll want to pick up this cheap, easy read. It's worth your time.

DMQZ follows Jacob Hale, a police officer who's lived most of his existence in quarantined Manhattan. The United States and the world have been ravaged by the dormouse fever, a deadly virus that spreads by skin-to-skin contact and kills most within 24 hours. A few islands of American government still hold out in quarantined zones such as Manhattan and Orlando, largely succeeding in maintaining a semblance of pre-apocalyptic life.

Hale is content with his role in society: a specialized operative of the Military Civilian Police, a militarized police force whose most important duty remains keeping the dormouse virus out of Manhattan. But when a strangely-alluring masked woman, a terrorist, gets the better of him during a bank heist, Hale's career begins to fall apart--and with it, his satisfaction with the world around him. He launches his own investigation to discover the truth. Who was the woman? What were her motives? What connection does she have to the world outside the quarantine--and the virus-resistant people who eke out an existence there?

These questions, and others, tore at me as I read DMQZ. And what a read. This book has single-handedly restored my faith in indie authors. Quinn Fleming has built a surprisingly convincing setting around this world-ending pandemic. In Manhattan and the surrounding quarantined boroughs, people subsist off of algae-based food flavored to mimic pre-apocalyptic food. Their commute is entirely by foot, though the authorities have preserved the fast-lane, slow-lane system to prevent congestion. Of course when they arrive at their destinations, they invariably have to contend with long stair climbs thanks to the absence of working elevators. The first three floors of every building are walled off in case of a virus outbreak. And the east-facing side of the island is fully militarized to prevent dormouse-carrying ʽresisters' from crossing the quarantine.

The lead characters aren't endearing, but certainly interesting enough to be attractive. Hale is an honest military type, an orphan with a boatload of bad memories, and though many of his recollections come off dry, they summed up to a convincing personality. His love interest, Leda, is a very strong female--utterly self-sufficient, economical, intelligent, and of course, beautiful. Despite her cool, detached demeanor, I found her unattainability alluring. Really, these two leads reminded me of Winston and Julia from 1984, at least superficially. As for the other characters: here's where one of my sole gripes is. I didn't really care either way for them.

But that's no problem, because I wasn't reading this book for them. I wanted the plot and setting. The conspiracy-laced plotline and Hale and Leda's burgeoning romance kept me intrigued. You can see places where Quinn is setting up for a sequel. There are purposeful gaps in the characters' stories. There are areas of backstory that Quinn could have explored, but didn't. And the ending itself--it's not a cliff hanger, but awfully close. And I want more.

To me, this was the kind of novel that I had to read fast, just because I wanted to know what happened next. It's a page-turner, that's for sure. If you like sci-fi, mystery, dystopian or just a good old-fashioned conspiracy, you'll enjoy DMQZ.

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