Written: Laura Anne Gilman
Published: June, 2011
Publisher: Fairwood Press
Obtained via: Purchase
It began soon after the Millennium. Reports of newborns with strange malformations, too weak to live . . . caused by a single genetic mutation. Or, as the press quickly dubbed it, the Dragon Virus. Scientists predicted that it was an evolutionary dead end; that the mutation would burn itself out quickly; that it was nothing to be worried about.
They were wrong.
Every racial type. Almost every continent. No known cause. Human-created, maybe. Or just God, throwing the dice. Infecting us, warping us. Tied into our genetic code, from here on in. No known treatment. No idea where even to begin.
Everything was about to change.
The Apocalypse. It’s been written of in many, many ways over recent years: viral plagues, meteors, zombies, climate change, earthquakes, vampires, hurricanes and floods. Dragon Virus is another of those apocalyptic stories – but it’s not at all the same. As the title pages says, this is ‘a tragedy in six evolutions /an evolution in six tragedies’. Or, as T.S. Eliot famously said,’This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.’
What Dragon Virus gives us is six glimpses of a unique apocalypse that spans generations. Generations during which humans manage to breed themselves out of existence. The titular disease is actually a genetic mutation, an aberration which scientists originally said would be a short-lived mistake of Mother Nature.
They were wrong.
This is no X-Men-esque story, where beings of special looks and talents (though there are those) become both humanity’s villains and saviors. As so often happens in real life, the true villain of the story is human nature. It is human nature that causes the rift between homo sapiens and other. And it is “human” nature in both – shall we call them species? – that causes the eventual implosion of society and culture as the rift tears the world as we know it apart.
From the body of a tiny stillborn Dragon child, to the pitiful remains of a human baby so loved by her Dragon brother that he smothers her in her crib rather than see her persecuted for being “different”, this is no happy story. Gilman has left us no shreds of hope here that homo sapien will triumph – indeed, this is a true apocalypse, as when the story is done humanity no longer even exists at all. This is an unflinching look at the most brutal parts of society and people in general: prejudice, persecution, violence, suicide, violation, murder.
Dragon Virus is a small, unassuming volume. Slim and nonthreatening, even with it’s bloody cover art. Don’t be fooled. Between it’s covers is a truly frightening look at how easily humanity could really fall apart.
Available as a limited, signed, numbered hardcover edition from Fairwood Press, there are still copies available. (I received copy #26.) I can tell that I personally debated the price point for quite some time, before I admitted that I was intrigued enough by the blurb that I needed to be able to read it. I wasn’t at all disappointed in what I got back for my money.
It’s no secret that I think Gilman is one of the oft-overlooked masters of the craft. Dragon Virus, although not for the faint of heart, is not only worth the money – it’s worth the nightmares afterward, too.
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