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Plagued, With Guilt
     

Plagued, With Guilt

by Michael Jason Brandt
 

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Five ordinary lives terrorized by war and disease...but the greatest danger comes from within.

Modest professor Ben Appelstein and four gifted students receive the opportunity of a lifetime-to join the first archaeological expedition in postwar Iraq. But their promising futures are cruelly shattered by a bloody Islamic insurgency that threatens to destroy

Overview

Five ordinary lives terrorized by war and disease...but the greatest danger comes from within.

Modest professor Ben Appelstein and four gifted students receive the opportunity of a lifetime-to join the first archaeological expedition in postwar Iraq. But their promising futures are cruelly shattered by a bloody Islamic insurgency that threatens to destroy everyone it touches.

The survivors escape one chaotic maelstrom only to discover they unwittingly unlocked another, as humanity itself is imperiled by a horrific new affliction that ravages man's most vulnerable organ-the mind. Now the friends responsible for unleashing the plague find themselves at the forefront of the struggle, and experience their ultimate trial at the conclusion of one fateful summer.

10th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist

"[A]t once a fierce academic thriller and a powerful meditation on humanity... A striking, powerful debut that heralds the start of a promising career."-Kirkus Reviews

Q&A with the Author:

Q: PWG is a long book, particularly for a debut novel. What was behind this decision?

A: I wanted to write something on the grandest scale I could think of-the existence of the human species as we know it. At the same time, I've always liked stories about regular people who rise up from their everyday trials to face extraordinary challenges.

I felt that I couldn't just jump right into "humanity is on the brink." I thought it would be more meaningful to see how individual lives would be impacted by a terrifying pandemic, which required showing those regular, everyday lives before events overtake them and turn everything upside-down.

Q: Each chapter starts with a non-narrative opener. What was the purpose of this?

A: In a way, the book tells two stories. The main one, of course, is how a new pandemic affects both the principal characters and society at large. The second is a connection between fiction and real world issues of today such as mental illness and international relations. The novel is meant to be entertaining, but also provide some insight into the world that the reader may not have thought about. So I just scratch the surface on a number of topics as they become relevant to what is happening in the narrative. I know that not every reader will love every one of these, but it is hoped that each reader will be interested enough in one or two them to look into them further.

(Partial Spoilers)

Q: The use of speech errors in dialogue is somewhat jarring for those of us who have an inner editor. What was the thought behind this, and are you concerned that the book will appear to have errors that might turn off some readers?

A: I can see how it could be confusing, but hopefully it is not overused in the book. Having difficulty with language as an early sign of the disease was used as a realistic symptom that could result from an affliction that rewires the brain and as a tip to an observant reader that a character is beginning to be affected.

Q: Those infected by the Eden virus are compared to zombies by some readers. Was that the intent?

A: No, the intent was to compare the infected to animals. More specifically, to predatory animals. In fact, there are many subtle and not-so-subtle references to human beings as animals throughout the book, even without the plague. Our limited ability to control our carnal and violent impulses is a recurring theme. The disease as a mental illness only exacerbates this condition.

Q: Will there be a sequel?

A: Who can predict the future?

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2015-10-09
Brandt plumbs the depths of suspense, pathology, and ancient history in this debut novel, at once a fierce academic thriller and a powerful meditation on humanity. The story begins slowly, weaving effortlessly through the intertwined lives of students at the fictitious Catoctin College as familiar fears parade in the background. But threats of a new flu pandemic and a rash of mass shootings seem far away to characters struggling with personal relationships and burgeoning academic and professional careers. Nevertheless, these background details—as well as the clever vignettes that begin each chapter, expanding on everything from the area's geography to the foundations of democracy—clearly map out and foreshadow the events to come and the novel's themes. When Dr. Ben Appelstein, chair of the school's ancient studies program, gets a research grant for an archaeological dig in Iraq, four of his students jump at the chance to go with him. But while the possibility of rediscovering lost pieces of ancient civilizations has great appeal, none of them anticipate the dangers they'll face, nor the irreparable changes they'll unleash on the world—particularly a mysterious disease that amplifies strength at the expense of reason. The characters, who come from a variety of backgrounds, are remarkably well-wrought and engaging. The narrative jumps among different perspectives, and readers begin to see each character through the others' eyes, with all their unique and compelling personalities, histories, fears, and traumas. But above all, what the narrative explores is desire—for each other and for personal accomplishment. Among such everyday desperations and sacrifices, the disease—which gives even as it takes—becomes truly compelling. A striking, frightening debut that heralds the start of a promising career.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780996498401
Publisher:
Casus Belli Books
Publication date:
06/27/2015
Pages:
550
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Jason Brandt is a specialist in history and geopolitics. Born in Washington, D.C., he lived for a time in Spain and England, where his interest in foreign policy grew into a passion. He received his first degree in business and computers from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. After a decade in the corporate world, Michael elected to change his career to something more personally rewarding. Returning to school, he received degrees in International Relations from George Washington University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Now dedicated to research and writing, Michael is a co-founder of Casus Belli Books. He currently lives in Maryland, where nature is beautiful. Plagued, With Guilt is his first novel.

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