Saturday, August 17, 2013

ARC REVIEW: PLAGUE SHIP by Leonard Goldberg

Title: Plague Ship
Author: Leonard Goldberg
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Genre: Suspense
Reviewed by: Books4Tomorrow
Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley
My smiley rating: 3/5


When a potentially fatal and mysterious illness strikes a luxury Caribbean cruise, every passenger is at risk--including Dr. David Ballineau, his young daughter, and his girlfriend Caroline Ross. With a shortage of medical help and supplies, David and Caroline struggle to treat an unknown virus that's spreading like wildfire. Under quarantine, they are forbidden to port anywhere--provoking panicked and desperate passengers to launch a mutiny and steer the ship toward land. If David can''t find a way to defeat the virus or take control of the ship, a worldwide pandemic could erupt.


You know that feeling when you’re watching a low budget made-for-TV movie with actors trying so hard but their acting is just so unbelievable and cringe-worthy? And you know how you want to stop watching this movie, but you just can’t tear yourself away from it, even when you know you can’t stand another minute of the fake acting? Reading “Plague Ship” pretty much felt that way to me. The reason I wanted to read it was because of the interesting premise. Who wouldn’t want to read about a luxury liner on which a sudden outbreak of a seemingly unstoppable virus is killing off passengers in droves? I would love to say that I was hooked from the get go, but that wasn’t the case at all. Three things that REALLY bugged me about this book were:


I didn’t like the characters. Not one bit. They were flat, unlikeable, cold, self-absorbed and nothing was done with regards to character growth. I’m talking about the good guys. The antagonists aren’t even worth mentioning, but at least they got a rise out of me. They were truly cold-hearted. So yes, I was very disappointed. There was nothing to connect me to, or have me relate to these cardboard characters, other than thinking how monotonous they acted throughout the story with a few aggressive outbursts here and there. Towards the end – and I’m talking from about 70% into the book – the reader gets accustomed to these characters, and they get easier to tolerate. It was disappointing, though, not even being able to find a liking in the two children; the doctor’s daughter and the boy who caused the plague to spread and killing hundreds of passengers in the process.


This was even more disappointing than not being able to connect with the characters. The reader is told at the start that the ship is an exact replica of the Titanic, down to the smallest detail, and the only thing different is the name of the luxury liner. Seeing as the entire story takes place on this ship, I wanted to get to know the environment and the characters’ surroundings in which the drama was about to unfold, and I wanted to feel part of it. I didn’t want to have to Google images (which I never did anyway) about the interior of the Titanic. I wanted the author to take me there and make me feel part of the setting in which these passengers had to battle for survival. Alas, this didn’t happen and consequently I just couldn’t ground myself enough to really enjoy this book to its fullest.


First I want to say, I’m no stranger to profanity. I can tolerate it in books and I usually don’t mind it, as long as the author can make me believe that it’s part of the character’s personality. Many authors do this convincingly and I’m sure this author could’ve also pulled it off, had he not made so many characters constantly use the phrases: “Jesus!”, “Oh Christ!” and “Jesus Christ!”. Trust me, I don’t have an issue with characters using these words, but only to a certain extent (and preferably only by one character). Personally, I took offense to several characters constantly using these exclamations and though many won’t be bothered by this, I honestly didn’t like it.

Now for the good stuff. The one really great thing I can say for this book is that the story was captivating and kept me reading way past my bedtime. And I mean WAY into the morning hours (on a week night and I had to get up early for work the next day). Basically, once I got into it at around 55% on my kindle, I simply couldn’t put it down. Despite my grievances, the whole idea behind the story was so good, I just had to know what would become of these people trapped on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a killer virus, a mutiny and no help from the CDC or U.S. government. The plot – which was impressively well-constructed – is the saving grace for this book. If you can ignore everything else – the profanity, the terrible characterization; and if you don’t mind lots of violence, I’m sure you might enjoy this book. The ending is definitely worth it.

ARC received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

This review forms part of my three-month participation in the NetGalley Knockout Challenge for 2013.



Leonard Goldberg is the internationally bestselling author of the Joanna Blalock series of medical thrillers. His novels, acclaimed by critics as well as fellow authors, have been translated into a dozen languages and sold more than a million copies worldwide. Leonard Goldberg is himself a consulting physician affiliated with the UCLA Medical Center, where he holds an appointment as Clinical Professor of Medicine. A highly sought-after expert witness in medical malpractice trials, he is board certified in internal medicine, hematology and rheumatology, and has published over a hundred scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals.

Leonard Goldberg’s writing career began with a clinical interest in blood disorders. While involved in a research project at UCLA, he encountered a most unusual blood type. The patient’s red blood cells were O-Rh null, indicating they were totally deficient in A, B and Rh factors and could be administered to virtually anyone without fear of a transfusion reaction. In essence, the patient was the proverbial “universal” blood donor. This finding spurred the idea for a story in which an individual was born without a tissue type, making that person’s organs transplantable into anyone without worry of rejection. His first novel, TRANSPLANT, revolved around a young woman who is discovered to be a universal organ donor and is hounded by a wealthy, powerful man in desperate need of a new kidney. The book quickly went through multiple printings and was optioned by a major Hollywood studio.

Dr. Goldberg is a native of Charleston (with the accent to prove it) and a long-time California resident. He currently divides his time between Los Angeles and an island off the coast of South Carolina.

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