Monday, July 30, 2007

The One That Got Away: Jeff Carlson's The Plague Year

Tomorrow, Ace is going to release Plague Year by Jeff Carlson. This is a book and an author I'm very excited about. I read it in manuscript form a year ago, when it was called The Invisible Sea. The story is a grim and gritty near future in which a nanite that eats flesh has escaped from a research lab and decimated the world. The very small silver lining on this very dark cloud is that it can't function and breaks down above a certain elevation, so tiny pockets of humanity exist on mountain tops, slowly running out of resources and going through the expected horrors of surviving in isolated communities where hunger and desperation has had a devastating effect on civilized behavior. These few survivors can make quick runs down into this "invisible sea" however, scavenging as quickly as they can before they feel the burning sensation that indicates the nano-plague has found them and started feasting. At which point they have to hightail it back uphill before they loose too many pieces. After a few of these runs, you really start to show it. The novel is gruesome, dramatic, exhilarating, and, as I told one Hollywood production company looking for near-future biotech thrillers, it's HIGHLY filmable, since all you need are a few weeks at a ski resort coupled with a few CGI shots of a space shuttle crash landing. (There rest of the cost is just who you cast.) If there's not a film option on it already, I'll be surprised. And if there isn't, I can't imagine there won't be one any day now the book is coming out. But the short is, I really recommend it and will be excited to see how Jeff does. So, what's my interest in this, you ask?

Jeff writes on his website that Plague Year "sold to Ace/Penguin after a small bidding war between two publishers and strong interest from a third." That's be me. I loved the book, but didn't feel I could follow the price up when it started to rise. Not out of our reach, just more than I was comfortable laying out at that time for a debut author when I had the rest of that season's list to think about. (These are the trade-offs one must make.) So I bowed out respectfully with nothing but admiration for the text. I'm sure Ace is going to take very good care of Jeff - I hear a sequel is in the works, and I, for one, can't wait to read it. And I plan to kick myself resoundingly when the movie opens.

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