• Book Review: "The Tilian Virus" by Tom Calen


    The Tilian Virus, the first book in the Pandemic Sequence by Tom Calen, tells the story of a man attempting to lead a group of survivors after the outbreak of a devastating virus that leaves the infected as less than human and eager to spread the devastation.

    Mike Allard’s story is that of someone forced to take charge during a crisis, never to return to life before. A former high school history teacher, trapped in the school with his students. When the fast-spreading, fast-acting virus hit, he attempts to protect the teens under his care, but when they leave the school, they realize that there are few places left to hide and few uninfected left. The rest of the book documents their struggles against the infected known as “Tils”, and their attempts to survive. But as they lose more and more of the group, they realize the Tils are changing for the worst.

    The virus causes increased flight or fight response, cannibalistic tendencies, and it spreads when the infected person bites another individual, might be elements that we recognize, but it is not the Tils story. Mike Allard’s attempts to protect the people under his care, while facing years of running, fighting and losing, all while trying to make decisions for the benefit of everyone, drains him, causing him to reflect on the circumstances that brought him to this place. We see Mike change, because he has to. We feel his terror and hopelessness, and see him keep going on without giving up.

    Tilian Virus goes back and forth between action filled fights with the Tills, and Mike’s inner reflection on life and the decisions that he has to make.
    The items were not cause for much attention, though the idea of a thief in the camp was unsettling. Not willing to move men from perimeter security to patrol the camp, Mike told the young man to tell the refugees to be more vigilant. In the back of his mind he knew, though, that if the thefts continued, stronger action would be required, and he felt uneasy about the result of such action. The community had lived together relatively without incident since the last group of refugees joined them a year ago.
    Mike is not a bad leader, or even an uncertain one, however the very nature of his position changes his priorities.

    The novel also switches back and forth between events around and following the outbreak of the virus and the events six years later, after they have already faced struggles in the new world. This works well to establish how Mike has changed and to give us a sense of how the world fell apart, and how it looks now that it has. The eventual hope that they might be able to survive a virus-free life in Cuba finally ignites hope of the community, but the people have been through too much to ever look at life the same way.

    This character-driven story based on the destruction brought on by the Tilian virus is one worth reading.

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