"Protocol Zero" (Berkley), by James Abel
"Protocol Zero," James Abel's follow-up to the stellar "White Plague," is intriguing, but ultimately doesn't live up to the premise or anticipation generated by the earlier novel.
Marine Joe Rush has dealt with many things that would have easily destroyed anyone with a weaker mind-set. He's three months away from retirement and marrying the woman of his dreams when his seemingly isolated life takes a drastic turn. An entire family has been discovered dead, and from the cryptic phone call left by one of the victims, it at first seems like a murder/suicide. Rush knew the family, and he cannot imagine what would have caused them to turn into almost wild animals. He begins to investigate when he uncovers the possibility of a disease that isn't known to be as reactive and contagious as it now appears.
Both the scientists on-site and his new superior officers thwart Rush's pursuit of answers at every turn. When he takes it too far, he has to run to stay one step ahead of ruthless killers and someone who doesn't want the truth of this disease to be discovered.
The effects of the disease are a bit off-putting in terms of their graphic nature, Rush's new boss is a bit of a caricature, and his fiancee seems off as well. With that in mind, the science and sheer isolation of the story is gripping, and Rush is still a formidable hero.
It's too bad that with such a great launch to a series this sequel doesn't live up to its thriller potential.