Review: Metal

By J F Lawrence

Disappointing post-apocalyptic "Shoot-em-up"

I read this hopeful from the book’s synopsis for a thoughtful, if pacey, sci-fi thriller in the Michael Crichton mould. However it really fails to deliver, descending very quickly into a formulaic post-apocalyptic “shoot-em-up”. The story portrays a remarkably rapid descent of American society into anarchy, in which our protagonists (led by two special-ops soldiers and an ex-military scientist) adopt a policy of “shoot first, think later” (the condition of the recipients consistently precluding any asking of questions).

The author is clearly very pro-gun, and uses the book to push the common justification of “if everyone has guns, we need mo’ guns”. Only one of the myriad interactions between the group and others completes with the exchange as agreed and everyone standing, the more usual outcome is complete carnage with the justification of “the mission” (to find a cure) being paramount. Those in the group with a more sensitive disposition all meet sticky ends, and only the “warriors” survive.

All this wouldn’t matter so much if the story had solid, consistent sci-fi underpinnings, but that’s not the case. The concept of a contagion with an element which rapidly corrodes common metals is a good one. However that is then elaborated past the point of believability, with almost the whole of mankind infected overnight by a cocktail of our deadliest diseases, which have somehow been engineered to produce almost no human symptoms but to destroy any nearby metal with not much more than a nasty look. The fact that we already protect ferrous metals in particular with coatings, by alloying or plating them with less reactive elements, or embedding them in bodies of glass, rubber and concrete is quietly ignored. This results in a situation where a gun can be protected despite repeated handing by wiping it with disinfectant, but someone obviously licked the Golden Gate Bridge and it collapsed.

A corollary of the in-credible science is very little discussion of possible solutions.  What there is, is inconsistent: there’s a list of the viral components and their metal targets, but a few pages later the priorities include one not on the list, and the list of “likely” vaccines ignores the fact vaccines for coronaviruses like COVID-19 have literally been developed within weeks of the viruses being identified. There appear to be other editing errors too: a note from the villain includes a hidden message, but the following discussion refers to elements which are not in the text, at least in the Kindle edition.

If you want a good fast-paced romp with lots of people being shot, this may be for you, but if you want a more measured thoughtful sci-fi thriller look elsewhere.

Categories: Reviews. Content Types: Book, Fiction, and Science Fiction.
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