Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Amanda's Story by Brian O'Grady

Amanda's Story
by Brian O'Grady
Release Date: November 13th, 2012
2012 The Story Plant
E-book Edition; 308 Pages
ASIN: B009G1T512
ISBN: 978-1611880472
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 Stars

In his national bestseller HYBRID, Brian O'Grady created a bracing and vividly realized tale of a virus gone out of control. At the center of that story was Amanda Flynn, a woman not killed by the EDH1 virus, but changed in frightening ways. HYBRID only hinted at the story of Amanda's work in Honduras that led to her exposure and the ramifications when the American government sought to contain the damage. Now, that story can be told.

AMANDA'S STORY is the heart-stopping tale of a woman caught up in a storm she wanted no part of, and what happens when she refuses to be collateral damage. It is the story that readers of HYBRID have been waiting for and that new readers will find impossible to put down.

My Thoughts
Amanda's Story was an interesting and intriguing tale of a young woman exposed to a frightening and deadly virus, one which changed Amanda in unaccountable and unforeseeable ways.  As the word hybrid suggests, "the offspring of two animals or plants of different breeds, varieties, species, or genera, especially as produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics", it is sometimes unclear whether the author is referring to Amanda in his story or the virus, or perhaps both, and it is this theme in the novel that is quite frightening.

The novel begins with Amanda struggling to deal with the death of her husband and young son in a plane crash, and in order to cope with life without her loved ones, she decides to sign up for a Red Cross Humanitarian job to Honduras.  Upon arrival, her team is faced with a deadly virus that not only kills voraciously, but in ways that has never been seen before.  Upon rescue, Amanda is put into isolation and containment for several months as she endures a variety of tests to determine how she alone managed to survive the deadly virus.  It is during this time that the reader begins to see changes in Amanda's more affable personality through the eyes of the other characters and although I found this disconcerting, I did find it interesting.  However, it did have a negative impact on me as I found myself disconnected from Amanda's personality and became far more empathetic towards the other characters that surrounded her.  It was in isolation when she first started hearing voices that were telling her to hurt others, and in quite violent ways. Up until this point of the novel, I was quite fascinated with the events and with Amanda and what was happening to her, but I soon found myself starting to dislike her, even if she was being held against her will.  I couldn't seem to help myself and this really didn't change as the novel progressed.  I tried to like her, but as her thoughts became more and more violent, and as she turned her thoughts into actions, I couldn't seem to empathize too much anymore.  There were times I was actually downright scared of her.

There were some other great characters in this novel however, that I truly enjoyed.  Greg and Lisa were wonderful to get to know, and even though they had their flaws, they seemed very normal to me in light of the events that were occurring.  I appreciated the moral and legal dilemma that Greg faced as he learned more and more about Amanda and what she was doing with her new-found 'talents' and really admired how he dealt with the entire situation. 

There were some aspects of the plot that I really enjoyed and others that I did have some difficulty getting through.  I really thought the description of the Honduran experience was quite well done and I enjoyed experiencing Amanda's bewilderment and confusion as she was trying to survive the days with little hope of rescue and watching those around her die in quite violent ways, especially after dealing with the traumatic deaths of her husband and child.  I am actually amazed she came through it all as well as she did.  Once she was released from the military facility, while there were quite a few interesting moments, it did lose some steam for me, as I found myself more interested in Greg and Lisa's issues rather than Amanda's and basically wanted her stopped from harming anyone.  I just couldn't connect with what was happening.  Yes, I get that everyone has very dark moments and we all have thoughts that verge on homicidal, but very few of us actually act on them or want to be vigilantes, which is a good thing or our society would be absolute chaos.  And it was the acting upon that I had a hard time with as well as the justification for the actions that kept coming up as no matter how had I tried, I just didn't agree with her actions.  

Amanda's Story is an interesting tale of a woman who is infected by a very unusual virus and suffers from side affects that few people would ever have guessed.  Being led by a consciousness that triggers the more violent aspect of her personality, Amanda struggles with being the "good girl", the one that tries to appease everyone else with the one she is slowly becoming.  Although I have not yet read Hybrid (and I will be soon now), this is an interesting prequel that I am sure many people will enjoy as it developed Amanda's story and how she was infected, and gave readers more of an insight into who she was.  For me, I just couldn't quite connect with Amanda and what she was going through, but many that's not such a bad thing either, on reflection.