Juggernaut (A Strain Novel) by Amelia C. Gormley ~ Book Review by Lirtle

juggernaut-cover-1Title: Juggernaut (A Strain Novel)

Author: Amelia C. Gormley

Publisher: Riptide

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 08/10/2015

Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)

Genre: Apocalyptic/dystopian, Crime Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Paranormal, Thriller

Blurb:

They helped destroy the world. Now they have to survive the new one.

For rentboy Nico Fernández, it’s a simple job: seduce a presidential advisor to help cement approval to launch Project Juggernaut. He’s done similar work for General Logan McClosky before, and manipulating people for his favorite client beats the hell out of being trafficked for slave wages in some corporate brothel.

Zach Houtman feels called to work with the most vulnerable outcasts of society. But his father, the Reverend Maurice Houtman, insists that Zach work for him instead as he runs for Senate. Zach reluctantly agrees, but is horrified to see his father leave behind Christ’s mandate of love and mercy to preach malicious zealotry and violence instead. Zach even starts to suspect his father is working with fundamentalist terrorists.

When Project Juggernaut accidentally unleashes a deadly plague that claims billions of lives, Nico and Zach are thrown together, each bearing a burden of guilt. With only each other for safety and solace, they must make their way through a new world, one where the handful of people left alive are willing to do anything—and kill anyone—to survive.

My View:

So lemme tell you a story about this story. Despite my absolute belief in, love of, and immense enjoyment from “Strain”, I didn’t have automatic immediate buy-in to this story. This is a prequel, telling us how The Rot came to be as played out in book one. I think I enjoyed this story even more because  I didn’t experience the insta-love. Why? Because it meant I experienced everything honestly, without a rose colored haze.

Nico is the son of a very successful business woman and works for her company. He’s a high-priced, highly sought after rent boy for whom family, his job, and his future are the most important things.

Zach is someone who lives his faith every day. The way he treats other people, his ability to see things from their points of view, and his desire to add something to this world that has been turned inside out are the most important things to him.

Unsurprisingly, the first major event is brutal, physically and emotionally. It’s clouded by the active choices the character makes, leading to a true case of dubious consent. The choices are conscious but are they being made with full knowledge of the consequences?

A few chapters in and I was wondering where everything was headed. Having read “Strain”, some of the surprises for the characters aren’t really surprises for the reader. Hints and allusions made in that first book are confirmed in this one. How was this all going to work?

Essentially, the world has gone to hell and beyond because a few individuals decided they had the right to dally with the destruction of every human being, their potential, their love. It all made me angry for Nico. Angry for Zach. And Silvia, Nico’s mama. The devastating unfairness is inescapable.

About a third of the way through, I came to this:

He understood how little he’d lived and how much he’d sacrificed, enslaving himself to his father’s will and ambitions. Now he knew, but it was too late to go back and claim the life he should have had before. Too late for everything.

The fork in the road appears, with life and death forming the opposing paths. The choice is not so clear.

The struggle here is to maintain that fingertip grip on one’s humanity, and what exactly that means, and the means by which to do it. Practically and emotionally, where’s the line? Has it changed? How often does it move? Does it even matter since it’s now reality, and reality is survival? When all of society fails to provide as it once did, determining the boundaries and rules just might kill you, and your heart, before any “revenant” has the chance.

Seriously, this story got me thinking. I know, I know, duh, it’s obvious by all of the questions I’m asking, but still, it made me think. A lot.

At this point, I’d firmly landed on the side of brilliant storytelling. And by this point I mean half way through. What in the world was left to do? To go? To feel?? I couldn’t help the asking but I should have known better.

… as if his nerve endings had just suddenly come to life after years of nothingness.

To say this is emotional… well, the world may be gone, along with most people in it, but an individual’s needs and dreams and doubts and losses are still that, individual. Everything is magnified.

This was one of those reading experiences that sunk its talons in deep, refusing to let go until the very last sentence. All throughout, the breadth of human dignity, and indignity, felt limitless. On the same day a young man suffers the worst imaginable, at the hands of one who forces that worst on the world, he also experiences the ultimate in compassion from someone else, someone willing to stay and witness the aftermath, despite the handwriting on the wall.

I know a lot of this has been rather vague. It was either this or I went on for pages and pages, ruminating and investigating, and giving everything away.

So here’s the sitch as it stands now: having read book one, “Strain”, and the way this story unfolds in the first half, I wasn’t yet convinced this prequel would work. I was wrong. I was oh so completely utterly wrong. Making it all work, of course, is the as close to flawless as flawless can be in the writing, the diverse cast of characters, and the multi-layered metaphor about today’s world embedded all throughout.

For as difficult a read as this is, it’s a must-read.

As for the reading order, I would still recommend reading Strain first, and then this. And then turn right around and read Strain again. That’s what I’m going to do.

I also own my own copy of this book.

Links

Juggernaut (A Strain Novel) on Goodreads
Riptide
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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