Review: Dead On Arrival, by Matt Ritchell

January 24, 2018 Review 0

Review: Dead On Arrival, by Matt RitchellDead On Arrival by Matt Richtel
Published by William Morrow on August 1st 2017
Genres: Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Suspense, Urban
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Copy
Sexual Content: Kissing, mentions of infidelity.
Reviewed by: Kim
2 Stars

A mysterious disorder threatens to destroy the world in this high-concept thriller from Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter Matt Richtel, which combines medical science, cutting-edge technology, and breathtaking suspense in the vein of Michael Crichton.

An airplane lands at a desolate airport in a remote Colorado ski town. On board, Dr. Lyle Martin, a world-class infectious disease specialist, is brusquely awakened to shocking news: everyone not on the plane appears to be dead. A lethal new kind of virus may have surfaced, threatening our survival, and now Martin—one of the most sought after virologists on the planet until his career took a precipitous slide—is at the center of the investigation.

The symptoms are the most confounding the experienced doctor has ever seen. Is it the work of terrorists? A biological attack? A natural occurrence? As word of the deadly sickness spreads, panic leads to violence and chaos. Armed and terrified partisans and patriots, stoked by technology and social media, have dug in, unknowingly creating fertile ground for the deadly syndrome Dr. Martin has begun to identify.

As the globe begins to unravel and paranoia and hatred take hold, Martin is forced to face a question as terrifying as this syndrome itself: is the world better left unsaved?

Moving at a breakneck pace from the labs of the Centers for Disease Control to the secret campus of Google X to the marble halls of the Capitol, Dead on Arrival is a brilliantly imaginative, high-concept thriller that draws on Matt Richtel's years of science and technology reporting for the New York Times, and establishes him as one of the premier technological thriller writers working today.

DEAD ON ARRIVAL sells itself as a zombie/medical thriller, but comes across as an almost-right-wing preachy cautionary tale about the dangers of technology. I thought the book was headed in FEED or THE AFFINITIES territory, but I was sorely disappointed in this near-future scifi novel.

The blurb on the back of the book only describes the first quarter of the book; the change from survival horror to pseudo-technological “thriller” was jarring. The mystery Dr. Martin must solve is spoonfed to him, with at least a dozen clues purposefully left by the main villain.

The doctor and the villain are very similar, both are geniuses who have trouble interacting with the world around them. They can’t explain their thought processes, don’t have time to catch other people up on the thousand-mile-an-hour realisations they have. It got annoying when the secondary characters keep having to remind the doctor to tell them why they were doing this or going there. In a real emergency, they would leave this antisocial “genius” to his own devices and forge ahead.

There are so few characters in this book, I was surprised they weren’t better developed. This is even more surprising because the character evolution for both the villain and the hero were well paced - there just wasn’t anything under this transformation for readers to care about. Yes, Dr. Martin rediscovers his curiosity and is broken out of his drunken-funk, but then what? Who cares?

With an ending that falls flat and a moral that is basically “technology bad, men with guns good”, there isn’t any reason to read DEAD ON ARRIVAL if you are a near-scifi fan, or if you are a medical thriller fan.

More Reviews: Similar Titles:
  • For better books about technology-led apocalypses, try The Girl With All The Gifts, FEED, Parasitology.
  • For clever near future fiction that reflects on the way our world may be headed, try The Affinities or Company Town.

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