Title: The Cobra Effect
Author: Christy Esmahan
Date of publication: November 27th 2016
Rating: and a half!
Cory Banks, a workaholic researcher, has been focused on one goal his entire life: finding a way to clean up the oceans. Living in India, he genetically engineers a bacterial strain that will degrade plastics. Disaster strikes and the bacteria grow out of control, eating holes in boats, buoys, life jackets, etc. Desperate to stop the bacteria, Cory comes up with a plan to create a virus that will specifically attack them. But to do this he needs the help of a virologist and there’s only one person who is skilled enough to handle this emergency on short notice. Her name is Sarah Spallanzani and she also happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Having recently finished her travails in The Laptev Virus, Sarah agrees to take on the problem. But tension mounts when Sarah discovers a second bacterial strain and suspects Cory of sabotage.
Last year, I was seduced by a book recommended to me by Lilyn @Sci-Fi And Scary. I think it was my first big step out of my comfort zone. A virus. Experiments. People dying in the Arctic. At first sight, not my cup of tea! On second thought, still not my cup of tea.
But the magic happened (you can find out about it here) so I was delighted when I was contacted by the author regarding her new novel, starring the same scientific team.
Here I am again, in a world I never understood: science. The thing is, we are surrounded by it, and The Cobra Effect reminded me of this very fact. I think I might have been more interested in the subject if I had had passionate teachers! Because our world and the way it works is fascinating. And our presence in it is devastating. Except we don’t see it. And I’m just like you, I change the channel whenever a guy in a white coat tells me the greenhouse effect is gonna cost us. I don’t want to be chided, I don’t want to think about the consequences of my actions if I buy a six-pack of plastic bottles and one ends up left on the beach. Okay, I don’t do that, mainly because I don’t go to the beach, but also because I was taught what trash cans were for! But you get the idea.
The Cobra effect sheds light on a material we use daily: plastic. The word isn’t scary. The thing itself…We should be careful of it! (or run!) Except we can’t because it’s our planet and we haven’t found a way to take over and pollute other planets yet.
One scientist. It’s all it takes for a solution to the plastic contamination of the oceans to be found. Except a random set of events ruins everything and creates a global disaster. I mean it, a disaster.
The author explains and shows the effects of plastic on our ecosystem in a very precise and effective way. Most of the information was very interesting, even for not-so-ecologist like me. I admit some of it was more difficult to understand than in the first book, where I felt a bit less at a loss regarding the hows and whys and whats, but if you stick to the main idea, the white coat language won’t be too much of a problem. Although cleverly intertwined in the plot, you might find the reminder of the bad aspects of plastic and what human beings are doing to our lovely planet a bit repetitive, despite interesting and terrifying simple explanations which sometimes left me speechless and had me reconsider my views on a couple of concepts I definitely had wrong.
You can’t really talk about info-dumping as you get all of this precious knowledge enveloped in daily life, with humans and their problems, and I found there was a very smooth flow to the story. To keep me reading about this kind of subject, there had to be, and Christy Eshaman did a great work in offering me a different kind of book, very serious and important in one side, but also so very human and real.
The tone of this second book is slightly different, as our specialist of viruses, Sarah, gets a phone call about something having gone terribly wrong, before we are set back months before to explain how we got there, in a different country, with a different team. There is no thrill in the usual sense of the word, as you know something bad has happened from the start, and you spend half the book conducting experiences and catching glimpses that will later explain why the project exploded in their faces. By the time Sarah and her experts take the stage, their work felt a little too simple and I was glad about the addition of the threat of a global solution decided by countries to act as a countdown to the task or the story would have lacked the rush I wanted to experience from fighting and creating little beasts to prevent the world from a terrible fate.
As far as the characters are concerned, I really enjoy the way the author portrays them all very different but all passionate. Well, almost all! Sarah and the man who asks for her help have an interesting background and I was worried to see how it would change her, as she is a protagonist I really like and she happens to be happily married to a lovely man, so this old spark brought a new side to the woman I knew. It also helped Sarah get rid of the simple definition of “scientist”. They are people, too! Not just mad and emotionless robots!! Yes, I was also surprised when I realized this 🙂 I was happy to meet her team again, and her boss was a surprise! A very good and funny one.
Christy Esmahan combines a smart eye-opening plot about mankind’s bad habits to a bunch of smart and interesting people to offer a different view on the good and the bad sides of science and its uses.
You can find The Cobra Effect on Amazon!
Are you a member of a book club?I love visiting with book clubs, either in person (if yours is in the Austin area) or via Skype or cell phone if your group is elsewhere in the world. If your book club decides to read any of my novels, please send me a message and arrange for my “guest appearance” at your next meeting!
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and attended Miami University, majoring in Microbiology, then earned a doctorate from the Universidad de León in Spain in Molecular Biology. I worked both in Spain and in the US as a science teacher and administrator, before retiring to become an author. I now reside in Austin, Texas with my husband.
You can find Christy on Twitter: @ChristyEsmahan