Count Blogula is what’s called a ‘flugative’. He’s a self taught expert on influenza so when a deadly strain of H5N1 flu tears through his beloved New York City it’s no surprise. He’s been predicting it and makes a living by selling flu protection measures (gloves, masks, literature, etc) from his East Village apartment where he runs his online store and personal blog. He’s prepared for it. The problem is, most of the country isn’t. When he starts blogging on self preparedness and in depth flu facts, the government starts labeling him as an alarmist. He and his fellow flu fighters are just trying to help the public. The government doesn’t see it that way. When his blog starts to gain followers and momentum, he’ll find himself on the run. Not just from the worst flu pandemic in history, but from the American government as well.
American Fever is unlike any book I’ve read. It’s told completely in the first person but that’s not what makes it different. What makes it different is that it’s presented as a series of blog entries posted by ‘Count Blogula’ over the course of nearly a year where he’s trying to educate people about the flu as well as trying to protect himself and those he comes to care about.
I admit that through the first quarter of the book, I found myself thinking that there was no way I was going to enjoy it come the end. There is minimal dialogue as it’s really just a series of blog entries and, while interesting and informative, the beginnings of the novel read more like a text book. There are long passages about differing flu strains, the history of the flu, the science behind avian and swine flu vectors, etc. It’s presented in an easy to comprehend fashion, but as a reader of stories, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The book really starts to pick up once the blog entries turn towards the personal.
When Count Blogula begins making entries about the people he knows, including friends, a crazy ex girlfriend and a mysterious female ‘fan’ that reads his site, as well as events going on in the rest of the country and the world, it turns into a compulsive read. This is where the blog format of the book really pulled me in. Because of the unique storytelling, Blogula’s feelings of claustrophobia and despair for a populace that ‘didn’t listen’ and a government that’s ill equipped to deal with a prolonged crisis becomes a constant source of tension. When people he knows die, you feel it along with him. When friends go missing, you share his worry. When the government starts to label him public enemy number one, you’re scared for him. At the start he seems like a paranoid shut in. Towards the end you can’t help but pull for him to be a survivor. Blogula grows as a character and his voice remains true to form no matter what hellish things nature, and man, throw his way.
The e-book version of American Fever is filled with clickable links. The author didn’t just list a bibliography at the end, citing his research; he made it PART of the book. I can’t imagine how long it took to put this thing together. There are copious amounts of links, not just to sites on influenza, but to the main character’s favorite movies, books (he’s a big Ayn Rand fan), music…you name it, there’s a link. The interactivity of the book makes it seem all the more real because of it.
American Fever is informative, funny, touching, and at times, completely terrifying in its plausibility and ‘realness’. It really captures both the best of people and the worst of people. This is a unique and compelling book that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Title: American Fever
Author: Peter Christian Hall
Genre: Apocalyptic Sci-fi
Publication: Arterial Witness (October 20, 2011)
Price: $2.99 (Kindle, Nook); $14.99 (paperback)
Author’s Website: http://www.americanfeverbook.com/peter-christian-hall/