Viral Nation

Viral Nation - Shaunta Grimes Read this review and more at Whitley ReadsThis book was provided for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My Reaction: This book started out as a fascinating and emotional read. The development of the dystopia was (mostly) believable and resulted in a well-crafted totalitarian regime. The book started to lose its punch, however, when plot got mired down in unanswered questions and “this thing happens just because” type plot points. I was also very disappointed in the portrayal of the autistic main character, Clover. The ending left much to be desired. Since I read it as an ebook and didn’t pay attention to the progress bar, it snuck up on me due to the utter lack of a climax. The book simply…ended.Highlights:• The world-building, for the most part, was great. There were a few places that could have been tightened up (seriously, the casinos? What was the point of having tricks and gimmicks specifically designed to pull in more money when there’s no money involved?), but overall it was excellent. • The HUGE notable exception to the good worldbuilding was Foster City. In this world of a decimated population, where there’s places that are literally in danger of being wiped off the map due to low population numbers, you’d think that taking care of orphans would be a big deal. They’re the future of the species, and every bit of genetic material counts. Not in this world, where all the orphans are taken care of by abusers, rapists, and murderers and no one cares. For no reason. There is abuse in the foster care system right now, but then again, it’s not “most" of the foster parents doing it, and right now we’re not scrambling to rebuild our population and in need of everyone we can get.• The other exception: what happened to the rest of the world? We know what happened to America, but nothing outside of that. Even the only war we hear about it is a civil war. Did we nuke every other country off the map before the virus started?• The time travel was not used to its full potential. Though it was something of a dynamic system, a lot of the times it was discussed, the characters treated it like a stable time loop. • The kids didn’t spend much time finding out anything; they just stumbled around until people told them stuff, or until their future selves told them stuff. And even then, people would stop talking halfway through a conversation just…because. Then the plot would drag on a little longer and take them to the next half conversation.• Clover’s autism was great at the start. I was excited to see an autistic character on the high-functioning end of the scale, one who could say “look, I have this condition, but I’m not a pity-party; just let me work.” I was all kinds of on board. And then…it started to fall apart. Mostly because it didn’t feel like the author had the guts to really do it honestly. There were many mentions of her not liking to be touched, but then “for some reason this time it was okay.” Only that line popped up every time someone wanted to hug her. We never really got to see her deal with the social problems of having autism outside of a few “clean” quirks, and any symptoms or problems of autism were either ignored or only mentioned right before we find out they don’t apply this time.• You can’t use the old stand-by trope of “for some reason she got a bad feeling from the bad guy” when your main character has a disorder that makes reading people all but impossible. You just can’t. It’s a terrible trope anyway, but it’s terrible squared here.• And the final nail in the coffin was the reveal that autism gives people special time-travel powers. We have all sorts of tropes where people with disabilities will be given some “power” or ability or Daredevil-senses to make up for it, they’re all insulting, they all need to stop.