Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
The Lambda Factor is a heavily-inspired medical fiction thriller from the mind of an actual doctor and scientist, Dimple Desai (MD). Although it is listed as speculative fiction, it is actually a chilling reflection of reality and current events.
The book covers such issues as failures in pandemic relief/response, an overburdened healthcare system, the military industrial complex and the weaponization of such things as Agent Orange, the politicization of tragic events, and—to top it off—global warming and its relation to weather phenomena. It is patient and methodical, covering a lot of ground in 350 pages (which is really about 180 pages of text considering the spacing).
The author provides numerous perspectives of the book's core crisis. In that sense, it reminds us heavily of the novel we'd just read and reviewed, When All Hope is Lost by Alyce Elmore, another book about a viral pandemic that wiped out a large portion of the population post-COVID. Both books also featured doctors and scientists as central characters with numerous perspectives, although Elmore's work may have provided a broader diversity in those perspectives in showing the affects of the pandemic in the shoes of people at different levels of society.
However, Desai's work does branch out as we get the rather unique and interesting perspective of Jason Carter, a prisoner and disgruntled veteran of the War on Terror. We're introduced to Carter as a surprisingly cool, charming, and somewhat snarky gentleman, even cracking jokes despite the direness of the situation and his vulnerability in being bed-bound in a hospital in the middle of both a pandemic and a hurricane.
That's right, a hurricane.
As if the pandemic weren't terrible enough, the characters have to experience the full wrath of 2020 (being sarcastic here), as Hurricane Beatrix forms in the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the hospital personnel and patients in Galveston, Texas are trapped on that island in quarantine with military enforcement and politicians like Senator Crowley being barely willing to lift a finger to alleviate the situation. You know this guy is not intended to be likable for the shear fact that his name is Crowley (as in Aleister Crowley, the occultist) and is possibly based on real-life Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Crowley may not be evil or a traditional villain, but he is definitely unscrupulous. He is a politician. He plays his political game and performs his political theater. It is kind of chilling how close this is to reality and how politicians on both sides used the pandemic to paint the other side as evil while glancing over the human costs of their actions or inactions.
The author also has first-hand experience of hurricanes in Texas, having lived through and survived multiple ones. So, not only does the author have experience as a doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they also have experience with the natural disasters in the region. This book really does come from a place of experience and inspiration, and we admire it for that. Does this sometimes lead to too much going on and a convoluted story with perhaps too many different messages? Maybe. But it's somewhat interesting. It was at least compelling enough to get us through the book without much complaint.
Jason Carter, Dr. Shaka Sen, Dr. Kirsten Stone, and—above all—Dr. Danica Diza are solid protagonists who actively push the plot forward and get us on their side. Well, Jason can sometimes get on the reader's nerves, but that's the point. Also, his last name is misspelled at least once (as “Cater” at the beginning of chapter 16), but we can forgive that.
Another somewhat funny thing we noticed about Jason's character is that the disturbing backstory he shares about serving in Iraq is almost identical to something we'd heard or read about before. At first we couldn't put our fingers on it, but then we realized that this isn't a description of the Iraq War at all but borrowed from an interview from a Vietnam War correspondent describing the treatment of American POWs and accused collaborators who were thrown off of trucks while tied up with no way to break their fall. It was seriously a case of deja vu to read that! We can't really fault the author too much as we've been inspired by historical documentaries in our own writing.
The book also features some graphic descriptions of death and decay. Notably, it features one of the most tragic and sad deaths we've read in a fiction novel. There are also some shocking and disturbing reveals!
Comparably, this book is most similar to Lethal Elixir by Dennis Ross, another book about a pandemic with political and military implications. Deciding on which of these two books is better or superior is incredibly difficult. With all that in mind we're giving it an identical score of 9.3 out of 10.
Check it out on Amazon!