It has been over five years since Chris Holm’s last novel, but clearly with the release of Child Zero readers will see that he hasn’t just been resting on his laurels. Child Zero represents an evolution in Chris Holm’s journey as an author and readers will almost certainly feel it has been worth the wait.
Child Zero is a future-set dystopian thriller based on real scientific facts. After the World becomes resistant to the medicinal benefits of antibiotics, the rise of chemical terrorism wreaks havoc – resulting in chaos, confusion, and concern for citizens everywhere. As the Harbinger virus continues to decimate the population, Detective Jake Gibson and his partner discover an enclave of citizens who have been murdered, their bodies burned on a makeshift funeral pyre. In and of itself, this mightn’t be too unusual except that in this case this group of individuals – who have been living in squalor, without even the barest of protections – are all completely healthy, something that is virtually unheard of in this society’s new reality.
Meanwhile, readers watch as twelve-year-old Mateo escapes into the sewers beneath New York City. It is not very long before it becomes clear that some very bad people are hunting for Mateo and it falls to Jake and his ersatz team to protect this young boy at all costs. What makes Mateo so special that this mercenary group would do anything to capture him?
Readers will be reminded of books like Coma and The Andromeda Strain as they read Child Zero. Just as the authors of those classic medical thrillers of yesteryear did, Chris Holm infuses his plot with his authentic knowledge of molecular biology. Robin Cook excels at creating believable heroes who use science to battle any threat, while Michael Crichton merged scientific fact with action-oriented disaster plots to keep readers furiously flipping pages. With Child Zero, Chris Holm blends these two ideals together, crafting a well-rounded novel that reflects upon our current reality with an all-too-plausible version of the near future.
What is once again extremely evident from Child Zero is Chris Holm’s ability to infuse heart and empathy into plots that on the surface read like breakneck thrillers filled with non-stop action. Holm deftly applies his authorial hand, subtly encouraging his readers to care about his characters in ways that go beyond their function as fictional people on the page – instead making them touchstone metaphors for real world ideas that deserve, and in some cases, require our compassion and understanding. Child Zero is jam-packed with examples of our society’s many failings. These include issues (poverty, racism, xenophobia, etc.) which readers witness every day – sadly in increasing volume during our current pandemic – and Chris Holm’s elevates them to the level they would likely reach should the World-order actually disintegrate.
Child Zero is a scary book. Readers finding it difficult to weather our current pandemic may want to delay reading it until they are in a better mental state. For those who do venture in, Child Zero provides much to contemplate while never losing sight of the fact that the main goal is to entertain. Chris Holm nails this balance and readers will hope that he continues along the medical thriller journey he clearly has a strong affinity for and the skill and knowledge to pull off successfully.
BUY LINKS: Child Zero by Chris Holm
Disclaimer: A digital galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.