Cover Image: Child Zero

Child Zero

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Member Reviews

I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2023 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="">
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Thank You to Mulholland Books and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Image living in a world where a simple infected paper cut could kill you.
In a world where all infections have became antibiotic resistant.
Diseases that were long ago eradicated are now once again taking hold.
Detective Jacob Gibson is caring for his sick daughter at home. He can't take who to a hospital because they will send her to an internment camp full of the sick. As a last resort, he contacts his ex, a doctor to help any way she can. Simultaneously, Jacob is investigating a mass murder in a park full of squalid conditions, except that not one of the victims had suffered from any type of sickness. One young boy escaped and now there is a race to find him, could he hold the answer to a cure for his daughter.
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This book felt like a WB show: heavy on action, light on character development and plot. Characters fit into the "good" or "bad" box, with not enough backstory or motivation. A little too political for my taste, this book felt like it had an agenda.
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Profoundly thoughtful, powerfully paced--I loved Chris Holm's bio-thriller, BIO-ZERO. Holm brings new life to territory that is typically the province of Michael Crichton, Preston & Child, even Margaret Atwood--detective/crime fiction aspects that make the novel a fast-paced mystery. Holm presents some strong ethical dilemmas that society must face, couched in biological realities that feel all too present in the wake of the COVID pandemic. This is a GREAT, exciting, wonderful book.
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Action-packed medical thriller -- scary and plausible.

Antibiotic resistance has resulted in a world wide crisis where a simple infection is now deadly. Historically eradicated disease is once again rampant, and humans live in isolation, quarantine, and fear of the microbes and of each other. Bioterror is the latest weapon for those extremist groups who want to bring about the end of human life. Amidst all the confusion and wariness, a couple of NYPD detectives stumble across a boy who has an unusual gift -- the ability to cure. Unfortunately, they must protect him from powerful factions who want the boy as a pawn.

The science in this work of fiction is very real and the threat of humans losing resistance to disease is looming. The world created by the author of this novel is bleak and dystopian. Government overreach and the protection of human rights are always seemingly at odds. The many characters in this book have their own motives for the actions they take and the philosophies they espouse. In any event, this story will make you think, do some of your own research, and take responsibility for making sure that the narrative does not come to be.

Very fast paced, it was hard to put down and quite enjoyable. I recommend it.

Thank you to Mulholland Books for this complimentary e=book to read and review.
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There aren't too many novelists as qualified as Chris Holm to create a science-fiction story based on a plethora of actual documented scientific facts. Holm takes readers through a world similar to the COVID-19 pandemic and makes everything much worse. The pandemic within CHILD ZERO isn't one disease—it's all of them. Holm focuses more specifically on bacterial infections that are contagious. He narrows the world down to New York City where detective Jake Gibson's problems begin with trying keep his sick daughter Zoe safe and hidden from the newly established Department of Biological Security.

Holm's action thriller creates a brand new masculine hero for today's real world readers. This isn't John McClane or The Transporter. Jake Gibson is selfless. He's willing to work with a team (in this case, his injured partner on the police force Amy, his ex-girlfriend Hannah, and a strange young boy Mateo) unlike 1980's quintessential heroes who generally had to fight alone or evolve to trust one person by the end of their story. This includes female heroes like Ripley and Sarah Conner.

In this version of New York City, the shutdown to contain diseases from spreading is more cruel. People are required to report their illness to the DBS which will relocate them to colonies much like the leper colonies of the ancient world. If someone doesn't report themselves or their loved one, neighbors are expected to rat them out.

Climate change is referenced by the descriptions of the city's record-breaking heat, cursed by seven consecutive years of the planet warming. Holm addresses many of the most important issues facing society today: racism, classism, greedy capitalism, immigration, and healthcare. The way Child Zero packs all of that into one breakneck story is phenomenal. Hospitals have followed the way of pharmaceutical companies with profits and the ability to pay driving decisions. When the Harbinger virus, ArBGR01, is released in Arctic because of climate change, it spread across the planet making the rich richer and vulnerable dying off in masses. No antibiotics work against illnesses unleashed because of the virus. As Holm writes, a papercut could kill you.

Jake's ex-girlfriend, Hannah Lang, was on a path to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, but after Harbinger, everyone is on the trauma lines. Despite their awful breakup, Hannah is willing to take Zoe and care for her in hiding so the DBS doesn't remove her from Jake's custody. His wife already died from Harbinger and he is motivated to keep Zoe alive at all costs including breaking all the laws necessary and going against his captain's orders.

Mateo Rivas is just a child. He's from an immigrant family and has spent most of his life inside the confines of "Park City," the colloquial name for Sheep Meadow Emergency Refugee Center which was created after the 8/17 bioterrorism attack. Mateo has a special gift that a pharmaceutical mogul named Ethan Rask and the DBS would do anything to get their hands on. Children are smarter than adults generally give them credit for, but when it comes to the maturity of Mateo, Jake notices and accepts it. This new relationship of a man and a strange boy adds to this new hero Holm has created. Mateo is every bit the hero that Jake is, but instead of the public image of being a cop, Mateo lives every day keeping his good deeds a secret. Over time, rumors circulate and eventually two different armies are after the boy.

Amy (Amira) Hassan is Jake's partner on the force. She's a hijabi woman of color who keeps her personal boundaries up all the time. She's a bit brusque to everyone undoubtedly due to a life of openly hostile racism and microaggressions. Amy is a character who will not quit. She's unstoppable and pure of heart like a medieval champion. She believes that she can affect change in the NYPD from the inside. When she and Jake are suspended at the beginning of the story, they end up on this apocalypse team together due to violent circumstances.

Child Zero also has a fairly unique presentation. Like Stephen King's Carrie, there are newspaper articles sprinkled in between chapters. There are also segments of dark web chats. Readers who love a good cyber thriller will savor these parts of the book which are integral to the web of crimes responsible for mass murder.


Chris Holm created one of the greatest science-fiction thrillers with Child Zero. The way every single aspect of modern life is depicted is heartbreaking. From blights making vegetables and other agriculture products rare items for the rich to life-altering classist encampments filled with dying people, Child Zero doesn't hold back. This is bound to be my favorite book of the year.

Rating: 5 Stars (I'd give it more if possible)
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In the near future, bacteria have won. The entire world went up in flames after the release of the Harbinger virus on 8/17. If your immune system was compromised, you died. If you scratched yourself while shaving, you died. If your appendix burst, you died. Or, if you got bitten, your leg had to be amputated. Jacob Gibson is caring for his sick daughter when he gets a callout to a mass casualty scene. His partner, Amy Hassan, is managing the site where bodies have been burned beyond recognition. Jake and Amy follow a lead to a squatters' building in Manhattan and discover a miracle, a child, Mat, who can heal the sick. Only problem is, two different, but equally evil predators are hunting Mat. Jack and Amy must protect him long enough to get him into the custody of the NYPD and the government. A real adrenaline ride and an all t00 logical plot. Stop taking so many antibiotics!
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This book sounded really promising, like something I've never read before. It started out really good and then if just feels like it became a action movie. It was well written and the details were there. The story is so good, but I wonder if it might have been better as a movie then as a book. 

Also this was noted as a medical thriller and I don't agree with that. This seems like more of a police procedural with some medical Jargon thrown in. 

Enjoyed it but would love it as a film.
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It is always fun to recognize a fellow nerd when reading a book. Chris Holm gave several nods to various pop culture but the Jurassic Park and Stephen King ones were my favorite.

It is a tough book to read in a post Covid world. Tough because it is not hard to imagine a world where bacterial infections are augmented and antibiotics are rendered useless. 

Tough because it isn't difficult to see both corporations and power hungry politicians willing to go to extremes to get what they want. 

But it is an excellent read where the science is great (especially an explanation of bacteriophages).  This book is a suspenseful journey that will grab you and drag you along for the ride.  It touches on a multitude of topics: disease, capitalism, greed,ambition, and xenophobia, 

While the ending felt a little too easily wrapped up, I truly enjoyed this read
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Child Zero takes place in the not-too-distant future . . . 2028 or thereabouts. Bacterial infections are running amok they become resistant to the wide spectrum of antibiotics. Millions are dying. It doesn't help that some biological hackers let loose the Harbringer Virus that has yet to be contained. In NYC, the city has set up Park City in Central Park. A tent city for the sickest of its inhabitants. Attempting to keep the populace healthy and distinct from the infirm, the federal government set up a new cabinet post called the Department of Biological Security (DBE) and gave it unprecedented leeway to carry out questionable mandates. Then there are the EndTimers, a loose pack of crazies intent on helping humanity rush headlong towards its eventual destruction. 

Jake Gibson is a NYPD detective and partner with Amy, an American-Muslim and all-around good detective. He is a former military medic. Single father to 4.5 yo Zoe. His wife died at the onset of the pandemics. He was dating Hannah, a general surgeon in the City, but he got morose one too many times with her and he broke things off. Jake and Amy catch a floater in Hell's Kitchen. But Zoe is sick so his local source for childcare refuses him so Jack calls on Hannah. 

Jake and Amy check out the corpse who must've been an escapee from Park City so that's where the investigation starts. Upon arrival, they encounter a heavy DBS presence - too heavy for what appears to be just a bonfire by the residents. Getting closer to the pyre, they see that the fuel isn't wood. The onsite rep from the coroner's office tells Jake and Amy that none of the victims bear the markings of any illness - murder, yes. Illness, no. Their tents have been tossed. Looks like someone got past security and committed the atrocity, looking for something or someone. In particular, an illegal immigrant kid named Mat and his Uncle Gabriel. Why? Because Mat's not sick. Never has been. Back home. In the USA. Never so much as a sniffle.

Using security footage from nearby retail shops, they find the entry point, question the guard (Jake has a way of going old-school when those skills seem apropos), get the guard's DBS contact and follow that agent to an abandoned building in an attempt to find Mat. As they approach the building, they hear shots and run to see what's happening . . . and the building explodes killing Gabriel and setting Mat on the run. Jake sees this kid on the run and grabs him. One hand on Mat, other on his gun, and John Q Public with a camera phone. Not long before the video is uploaded, Jake's boss sees it and promptly suspends Jake (and Amy). 

NYC has a mess on their hands. Dozen's murdered and used as fuel for a massive bonfire. All the squatters killed in that explosion. And now Jake, Amy, and Mat are on the run trying to see how it's al connected while staying hidden within a city littered with CTV camera everywhere no one to trust. The PD want them based on the explosion and rough handling of a 12yo latino boy. The Feds want them because the Feds have jurisdiction over Park City. The EndTimers want them because . . . well, because they are crazy. 

While it should be pretty obvious that there is something really unique about Mat, why so many different authorities want him is murky. That means Holm has dreamed up a plot with two main points: Mat's uniqueness and who stands to benefit if and when he gets caught. 

And therein is the crux of the matter. Two cops and a kid (plus a surgeon and Jake's 4.5 yo daughter) manage to stay ahead of the full power and reach of the DBS and the NYPD (and various other secondary groups). And while that might sound a bit too much for the garden variety reader of medical thrillers, trust me when I say that Holm is quite adept at stringing us along by revealing the minutest of clues to keep the plot rolling and us reading. 

But I will say that I had to work a bit at following the story in the first few chapters. Maybe 10% of the book. Once I got past that, Holm has us sprinting all over and under NYC toward a conclusion that some might say, "saw that coming" or, "if that story every happened and it became public . . . " Either way, as breakneck paced medical mysteries go, this one's worth it. 

Holm always wanted to be on the front lines of viral detection for the CDC. Was in the PhD program in microbiology at UVa, but quit when his penchant for storytelling overcame his interest in diseases. He has about six other novels (one, The Killing Kind, reviewed by us) in two distinct series. Makes me wonder it Jake Gibson will be reappearing. 

Child Zero is to be published the week of May 9, 2022.

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In a not-too-distant future when antibiotics have stopped working, the world is still reeling in the aftermath of an horrific bio-terror attack, and new strains of virulent bacteria are wreaking havoc on the human population, NYPD detective Jake Gibson is called to the scene of a mass murder and quickly finds himself on the run from multiple groups trying to capture a tween survivor of the murders. 


I was a medical microbiology & immunology major for undergrad, and I *really* appreciate that Chris Holm is a scientist and knows what he’s talking about. The science (even if it’s deployed in a fictional situation) makes sense and seems horrifyingly feasible. I also loved that he included a list of journal articles at the end for reference and further reading (heart eyes). The story itself was thrilling and terrifying and action-packed. I didn’t like a few things about the ending, but whatever — this was a fast-paced, exciting medical/techno-thriller that I couldn’t put down and thoroughly enjoyed. I somehow haven’t read his Anthony Award-winning book The Killing Kind, so that’s going on my list. Highly recommended!
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Child Zero is a thrilling read with a not so distant look at an entirely possible world. The setting is very interesting, but the character details and pacing took me to four stars instead of five. The characters are real and interesting, but despite being a thriller, I wasn't sold that they were in imminent danger, despite the setting suggesting otherwise. Pacing for me started strong, quickly slowed, and abruptly brick wall ended. While certainly a style choice, it just didn't mesh up with the pacing of the majority of the book, so much as it felt like a decision to stop.

That said, I enjoyed spending time in this world, found the ending to be conclusive, if not satisfying, and enjoyed the concept very much. I recommend giving it a chance!
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Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. My reviews are not influenced by the "free" book - I review honestly.

This book has a fairly interesting premise: What happens when antibiotic resistance occurs across a wide range of diseases? In this case, the reason for it, and its impact, become the story line of the book.

I liked it - especially in light of what has happened to the world with Covid-19, and how a global pandemic is a viable thing. Global, illness-based pandemics are not a new idea in sci-fi. But what made this book interesting is that it didn't assume some vague vector for that pandemic. The story is grounded in plausible science, and doesn't fall back on using the tired trope of a homogenous, shattered world.

Instead, the impact of the pandemic varies, by economic class, location, and individual circumstances. Plausible. The pandemic impacts society irregularly. Plausible. And so on. The only *slightly* difficult thing to accept is that hope for salvation comes from the 12-year-old hinted at in the publisher blurb.

Fortunately, this hope doesn't need to be full expressed in science outcome. This story is built on a traditional good-cop, bad-guy-(not-gonna-tell-you-who) framework. And while the 12-year-old is pivotal to the story, the science around why the boy is interesting is - while plausible - not entirely necessary for the book / plot to ultimately succeed.

It was definitely a page-turner that I reached for at night. Four stars from me based on my criteria: 5-stars for "one of the best books ever"; 4-stars for "good, well-written, on to the next one"; 3-stars for "meh - finished, but forgotten immediately"; 2-stars for so-bad it makes you laugh, sigh, or maybe write a bad review but you don't want to be a negative person", and 1-star for not being able to read past chapter 3 even as a penance for your sins.
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It has been over five years since Chris Holm’s last novel, but clearly with the release of Child Zero readers will see that he hasn’t just been resting on his laurels. Child Zero represents an evolution in Chris Holm’s journey as an author and readers will almost certainly feel it has been worth the wait.

Child Zero is a future-set dystopian thriller based on real scientific facts. After the World becomes resistant to the medicinal benefits of antibiotics, the rise of chemical terrorism wreaks havoc – resulting in chaos, confusion, and concern for citizens everywhere. As the Harbinger virus continues to decimate the population, Detective Jake Gibson and his partner discover an enclave of citizens who have been murdered, their bodies burned on a makeshift funeral pyre. In and of itself, this mightn’t be too unusual except that in this case this group of individuals – who have been living in squalor, without even the barest of protections – are all completely healthy, something that is virtually unheard of in this society’s new reality.

Meanwhile, readers watch as twelve-year-old Mateo escapes into the sewers beneath New York City. It is not very long before it becomes clear that some very bad people are hunting for Mateo and it falls to Jake and his ersatz team to protect this young boy at all costs. What makes Mateo so special that this mercenary group would do anything to capture him?

Readers will be reminded of books like Coma and The Andromeda Strain as they read Child Zero. Just as the authors of those classic medical thrillers of yesteryear did, Chris Holm infuses his plot with his authentic knowledge of molecular biology. Robin Cook excels at creating believable heroes who use science to battle any threat, while Michael Crichton merged scientific fact with action-oriented disaster plots to keep readers furiously flipping pages. With Child Zero, Chris Holm blends these two ideals together, crafting a well-rounded novel that reflects upon our current reality with an all-too-plausible version of the near future.

What is once again extremely evident from Child Zero is Chris Holm’s ability to infuse heart and empathy into plots that on the surface read like breakneck thrillers filled with non-stop action. Holm deftly applies his authorial hand, subtly encouraging his readers to care about his characters in ways that go beyond their function as fictional people on the page – instead making them touchstone metaphors for real world ideas that deserve, and in some cases, require our compassion and understanding. Child Zero is jam-packed with examples of our society’s many failings. These include issues (poverty, racism, xenophobia, etc.) which readers witness every day – sadly in increasing volume during our current pandemic – and Chris Holm’s elevates them to the level they would likely reach should the World-order actually disintegrate.

Child Zero is a scary book. Readers finding it difficult to weather our current pandemic may want to delay reading it until they are in a better mental state. For those who do venture in, Child Zero provides much to contemplate while never losing sight of the fact that the main goal is to entertain. Chris Holm nails this balance and readers will hope that he continues along the medical thriller journey he clearly has a strong affinity for and the skill and knowledge to pull off successfully.
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In this chilling and excellent dystopian futuristic thriller, overuse of antibiotics has rendered them useless. Myriad viruses and bacterial infections have started rampaging humanity including an old pandemic released from the melting icecaps. Across the globe old diseases resurface with outbreaks of meningitis, cholera, tuberculous, plague. In this post-antibiotic era, anything that could trigger the need for antibiotics has been cancelled so no more surgeries, and even the slightest cut if it becomes infected could kill you. 

On top of this, on a date known as 8/17 (step aside our 9/11), a deliberate biological terroristic attack aimed to start wiping out humanity is unleashed on New York City and causes untold death. To combat the threat, an uber U.S. Agency has been formed: the Department of Biological Security. Hello Orwellian big brother. Anyone spiking a high fever must be reported for containment, night curfews have been mandated, and a Central Park containment zone that went up in the early days of the pandemic has now been festering for three years with no one released. 

This heart-pounding novel opens with a highly trained assault team weaving their way in New York City to the Central Park compound, using technology to avoid the curfew patrols. Once there, they launch an all-out violent and deadly attack on one village in the compound. Right before they get there, a man helps a 12-year-old boy escape via a hidden sewer duct. 

NYPD Detective Jacob Gibson gets called to the scene with his partner. His young daughter has come home from preschool spiking a high fever and he does not want her turned over the Biological Security forces. So as a last resort he calls his former girlfriend, an accomplished doctor, for a babysitting rescue. When Gibson arrives, he realizes that they entire village has been massacred, but that everyone who died was apparently in perfect health – a complete and unexplainable mystery. 

Both Gibson and the unknown attack force all go in search of the boy who fled. And his girlfriend and daughter get swept up in the action on the run. Expect to stay up late as the plot takes on a velocity of its own. 

Author Holm’s background as a molecular biologist gives the details of antibiotic resistant bacteria both scary realism and urgency. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for an advance readers copy.
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I thought it was... fine. If you are in the mood for a fast paced sci-fi techno-thriller, it will do just fine. A few things kept it confined to three-star territory for me:

- The science-based premise was straining plausibility for me, then in the second half it took a turn into magical realism with some hand-wavey scientific explanation.

- The bad guys were laughably, unambiguously bad. The good guys were paint-by-numbers. 

- The ending I found really unsatisfying.
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Child Zero
Genre: Thriller 
Format: Kindle eBook 
Date Published: 5/10/22 
Author: Chris Holm
Publisher: Mulholland Books 
Pages: 352 
Goodreads Rating: 4.11

Thank you to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for providing a copy of the book for me to read in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Synopsis: It began four years ago with a worldwide uptick of bacterial infections: meningitis in Frankfurt, cholera in Johannesburg, tuberculosis in New Delhi. Antibiotic resistance soon roiled across the globe. Diseases long thought beaten came surging back. The death toll skyrocketed. Then New York City was ravaged by the most heinous act of bioterror the world had ever seen, perpetrated by a new brand of extremist bent on pushing humanity to extinction. Detective Jacob Gibson, who lost his wife in the 8/17 attack, is home caring for his sick daughter when his partner summons him to a sprawling shantytown in Central Park, the apparent site of a mass murder. Jake is startled to discover that, despite a life of abject squalor, the victims died in perfect health—and his only hope of finding answers is an eleven-year-old boy on the run from some very dangerous men.

My Thoughts: If this book had been written 10 years ago, it would not have been plausible. But in today’s world, going on year 3 of COVID, extremely plausible. I have read that this author is a real microbiologist, which makes for an even better writing. This was part mystery, part sci-fi, and part thriller rolled into an excellent read. In this book it takes a view of bioterrorism to a new level, where medicine can no longer hear a simple scratch, back to he dark ages of medicine, and makes it incredibly real. The characters are developed well and Jacob is extremely likable. This was a fast paced book that went by really quick. I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend to others, as well as reading other books by this author.
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This is Escape to LA mixed with The Hot Zone.
Jake is a police officer in a plague ridden country because antibiotics don’t work anymore….
During the course of the book we learn about a crooked police admin and a rich man, also a child that has the answer for the world.
Excellent , fast paced and potentially true scenario.
Thank you to the publisher for this opportunity, I highly recommend.
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Review of Uncorrected Digital Galley
For years, the overuse of antibiotics threatened to create antibiotic resistance among the people. When it finally happened some four years ago, aggressive diseases doomed the unprepared populace, often within days. 

But something even more terrifying awaited New York City.

Spencer Brutsch, harboring radical beliefs, released a multidrug-resistant strain of bacteria in a New York City subway station. It took two days for the infected to begin dying. As the outbreak continued to spread, the death toll rose.

While caring for his sick daughter, Zoe, widower New York Police Department Detective Jacob Gibson, summoned by his partner, Amira Hassan, finds mass murder victims who, despite their squalid living conditions, died in perfect health.

Now Jake must find eleven-year-old Mateo Rivas before the powerful men who will use him for their own nefarious ends can locate him.


Dark, disturbing, and frighteningly within the realm of possibility, this story pulls the reader into the telling of the tale from the outset. As the plot twists and turns, the events become even more horrifying, keeping the suspense high. A constant undercurrent of apprehension keeps readers guessing and the pages turning at breakneck speed.  

Believable, nuanced characters, a strong [albeit harrowing] plot, and non-stop action combine to create an unputdownable story filled with tension, behind-the-scenes machinations, mercenaries, and political conspiracies. It’s a not-to-be-missed book that belongs on every reader’s must-read list. 

Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this eBook from Mulholland Books and NetGalley
#ChildZero #NetGalley
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CHILD ZERO :: Chris Holm

As a huge fan of Chris Holm's work (go dig on The Killing Kind, I've been waiting with bated breath for Child Zero. On the other hand, I knew a bit about where this book was headed and was...let's say scairt. Holm is a super smartypants (molecular biologist) and I am a middling smartysock. When I got my copy I was elated and also, as I told him, "hoping it wasn't over my head." As usual, he had the best response: "If that's the case then I haven't done my job." I can now attest that Holm did his job to PERFECTION. 

One of the things I adore about Chris's writing is that while story is Job 1, character is Job 1A. Once again, he's nailed both in thrilling fashion. In a not-too-far-ahead future, we have continued to fuck up. Unchecked climate change results in a deadly virus being unleashed from the Siberian permafrost. Also, whoopsy!, it renders antibiotics useless. That hangnail you're nursing? That teeny scratch from your beloved Dashiell? They might now be the death of you.

Child Zero is the thrilling story of people trying to adapt to a horror landscape several years following a bioterror attack. We experience that terror through NYPD Detective Jake Gibson, who lost his wife in the attack and is raising his daughter Zoe alone. As we meet Jake, Zoe has a temperature high enough he is mandated to report it to the Department of Biological Security. But Jake knows what happens when a report is made and he's willing to risk everything to keep Zoe safe.

Jake's problems are multiplied when he's notified of a massacre at Park City, an encampment of refugees stranded when Manhattan was quarantined following the 8/17 bioterror attack. The scene makes it clear the assassins were looking for something or someone and Jake and his kickass partner Amira "Amy" Hassan need to figure it out quickly.  

As the Park City attack began, twelve-year-old Mateo Rivas was awakened by his uncle Gabriel and hurried to a planned escape route. Gabriel ensured Mat held a bound and wrapped package securely and remembered his instructions, then sent the boy out into the world via the sewer system.
What Mat possesses and why baddies might want it is at the core of Child Zero, a total barnburner from start to finish. The science is frighteningly on point and plausible, the characters are so well drawn you can't help but want more of them, and the sandbox the science and characters get to play in keeps the reader glued to the page. Holm's world-building is superb and, since the book was serendipitously (?) published during a pandemic, Holm has made it all too easy to imagine this world as our future.

If sciencey stuff makes you think twice, I'm here to tell you it's not an obstacle to your understanding or enjoyment. If science is your bag, there are more than enough juicy tidbits for you. If you are trying to escape pandemic reading, this didn't ring my "pandemic malaise" bell. Although we can all now sadly relate to many of the issues raised by the plot, Child Zero is still escapism at its finest. 

I don't have a ratings system or give stars, so I'm just going to lasso the galaxy and hand it to Child Zero.
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