View our feature on Jeff Carlson’s Plague Zone.After surviving the machine plague and the world war that followed, nanotech researcher Ruth Goldman and ex-army ranger Cam Najarro discovered that a new contagion is about to be unleashed.
Read Jeff Carlson’s blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.
“Gripping. Jeff Carlson concludes his Plague trilogy with an epic struggle among desperate nations equipped with nano weapons…This book is an object lesson in why we’d better learn to get along before the next arms race.”-Jack McDevitt, Nebula Award-winning author of The Devil’s Eye
“Jeff Carlson’s Plague Zone is a high-octane thriller at the core-slick, sharp, and utterly compelling. Oh yeah, and it’s frightening. SF doesn’t get much better than this.”-Steven Savile, international bestselling author of Silver
Please allow me to glow with pride for a moment. I’ve made the beginnings of a career out of those eight words and the terrifying concept behind them—that the only safe places on Earth are above 10,000 feet due to a runaway nanotechnology prototype.
The “Plague Year” trilogy has been a joy to write. Together, these books make an end-of-the-world epic full of bug swarms and exploding helicopters, and yet I like to think my college English professor would be pleased, too, because each of these novels gave me the chance to explore all three classic elements of story: Man against nature, man against man, and man against himself.
The environment is lethal.
The people are killers.
And everyone has to find a way to live with what they’ve done to survive.
I couldn’t be happier with the incredible tension of these books. The heroes are forced to deal with problems in every direction, both external and internal, from the large-scale conflict of the machine plague and a new world war to the very personal struggle for survival among the smallest safe havens in North America.
Looking back, it’s not just the characters who’ve stayed with me but the real-life individuals who gave freely of their time and education as I researched the many different threads of the story.
I’m fortunate that I have a lot of experts at hand. My step-brother is a major in the Army Special Forces and has seen combat in Afghanistan and Columbia. “Bear” Lihani, a former Lt. Colonel in the Air Force now working for NORAD, has become a good friend as well as a steady hand in directing my air wars. My father is an engineer and former division head at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where they do space defense lasers and other stuff right out of Men in Black. Any time I needed to bolt an air compressor to the floor of a single-engine plane or build a clean room out of nothing more than plastic sheeting and duct tape, Dad was there, like Batman, and I appreciate it more than I can say.
All three of these men were topnotch sounding boards, but I also had the privilege of meeting people who could speak to weird, scary things like evolutionary stresses and niche species break-out, so I’d also like to acknowledge Harry Green, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University; Mike May, Professor of Entomology at Rutgers University; and Seth Gallagher with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.
As for the nanotech itself, I owe a huge nod of thanks to Andreas Heinrich, Ph.D., one of the sharpest minds in nanotechnology today. Andreas answered any number of oddball questions as well as inviting me to step into a lab full of authentic nanotech gear. Fortunately, he didn’t let me turn anything on!
The trilogy has been a long journey and a good one. This is still barely the beginning for me—I’m knee-deep into a big new thriller as we speak—but it’s remarkably gratifying to hold these three books in my hand.
It started with reading when I was a boy. My father read The Hobbit to my brother and me when we were kids. Big mistake. By the time I was twelve I was reading James Michener and Jean M. Auel on my own, The Source, The Clan of the Cave Bear, all of those giant, wild, absorbing epics. Then I got into Heinlein and Haldeman and the short stories of John Varley, and those writers seemed to cover even more ground in books that were only a quarter as long as Michener’s doorstoppers. I was ready for it. My pace was increasing. Eventually I decided I wanted to play, too.
I hope Plague Zone knocks the eyeballs right out of your head. This one’s a doozy—the biggest of the bunch.
Readers can find free excerpts of my novels along with tour dates, videos, contests and more on my web site at www.jverse.com as well as a mind-croggling sci fi trivia contest. Winners will be given the chance to name a character after themselves or a friend either in my next new novel or in Colony High, my forthcoming collaboration with the amazing David Brin. See you there!