The Plague Tales
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|Format:||Paperback / softback, 688 pages|
Are those who don't learn from history condemned to repeat it?
Fourteenth-century physician Alexandro Guzman, caught performing a forbidden autopsy in his Spanish homeland, flees through Europe at the time of the Black Death to escape execution. But when he arrives at the Papal city of Avignon, he is conscripted to serve as a Plague Doctor, and sent against his wishes to the court of England's Edward III.
Unfolding in dramatic counterpoint is the story of American medical archaeologist Janie Crowe, in England at the turn of the twenty-first century to recover from the tragic loss of her family. She digs up a medieval artifact as part of her research, and unwittingly releases a deadly plague bacteria on an unprepared world.
In a future where antibiotics are useless and a past where death is an ever-present fear, these two unwilling heroes are linked by history and defined by circumstance. Here are their stories-- "The Plague Tales."
First-novelist Benson reveals a formidable talent as she blends historical fiction with a near-future bio-thriller. One strand of this novel loops through 14th-century Europe during the onslaught of the bubonic plague. The other runs through the year 2005, as the world is recovering from a global disaster called The Outbreaks. The latter tale features Janie Crowe, an American who has lost her entire family in the Outbreaks. A former surgeon, the 40-ish Crowe is forced by post-Outbreak legislation to "retrain" as a forensic archeology. While gathering soil samples in England, Crowe unwittingly unearths a piece of cloth that contains a bacterium that threatens the U.K. with a new strain of bubonic plague. The 14th-century tale, meanwhile, chronicles the journeys of Alejandro, a persecuted young Jewish physician whose banishment from his native Spain forces him to change his identity and eventually brings him to the court of England's King Edward. There he falls in love with the beautiful companion of the spoiled and capricious Princess Isabella, even as he searches for the cause and cure of the Black Death. Benson renders both eras and their characters in vivid detail and ties the two stories together with parallel plot elements and a unifying artifact‘the young physician's notebook. While stronger as a historical than as a futuristic medical thriller, Benson's debut is assured and accomplished in both the past and the present. (July)
YA‘First time novelist Benson tells a parallel tale of 14th- and 21st-century England, centered on the ever-fascinating Bubonic Plague. Alejandro Canches, a 14th-century Spanish physician, becomes the Papal appointment to the English court of Edward III. He is consigned the task of keeping the court alive during the Plague years beginning in 1348. The descriptions of treatments, daily life, and death during these terrible times are fascinating. Alternating chapters take place in 2005, a few years after the "Outbreak" and the end of antibiotic effectiveness against microbes. This is a world of biocops who shoot to kill if the infected try to escape, where transatlantic travel must be done in sterile gowns and masks, and "body printing" eliminates any semblance of privacy. Physician Janie Crow, in England for mandatory retraining since the drastic drop in population has rendered her surgical skills obsolete, accidentally unleashes the 14th-century plague bacillus on an ill-prepared London. This adventure grabs readers and carries them back and forth in time on the trail of the deadly bacteria. The blend of historical color and current biotechnology trends will have great appeal to young adults. It works as historical fiction, science fiction, or a technology thriller.‘Carol DeAngelo, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
First novelist Benson has created a harrowing medical novel that will give readers both nightmares and thrills. She uses an old gimmick, parallel chapters, to great effect, alternating between the stories of Alejandro Canches, a 14th-century Jewish physician, and Janie Crowe, a government-designated archaeologist in the 21st century. The heroic Alejandro battles the bubonic plague and sets in motion a tragic turn of events. Janie, an embittered former surgeon struggling in her new career, is still grieving over the loss of her family during one of the catastrophic sicknesses that besiege the time she lives in. Particularly horrifying are the descriptions of how contagion is fought during Janie's time; one or two methods will undoubtedly make readers wince. The two plotlines dovetail neatly and boil to a twisted, satisfying conclusion. Characterization is a little lame, particularly in the case of Alejandro's love interest, but not nearly enough to make the reader put the book down. It's a carefully woven page-turner from which veterans like Robin Cook and Michael Crichton could learn. Readers of books along the lines of Richard Preston's The Hot Zone (LJ 8/94) will devour this fictional equivalent. Recommended for all collections. [Preston himself is publishing a fictional equivalent of his sensational nonfiction title; for details, see Prepub Alert, p. 78-82.‘Ed.]‘Lesley C. Keogh, Bethel P.L., Ct.
"Benson reveals a formidable talent as she blends historical fiction with a near-future bio-thriller."--"Publishers Weekly", starred review
"Part historical novel, part futuristic adventure...surprisingly literate, chock-full of curious lore and considerable suspense."--"Entertainment Weekly"
"A harrowing medical novel that will give readers both nightmares and thrills....It's a carefully woven page-turner from which veterans like Robin Cook and Michael Crichton could learn."--"Library Journal"
|Publisher: ||Random House Inc|
|Dimensions: ||17.0 x 10.0 x 2.0 centimeters (0.32 kg)|