Cover Image: Of Starlight and Plague

Of Starlight and Plague

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Member Reviews

My thanks to Beth Hersant, Matador publishing and Netgalley.
So, I'm fairly late in reading and reviewing this book, and for that I apologize. No excuses, that's just the way it is.
So, onto the review!
Listen, I loved this story. It is told in 2 parts. Initially, I was for sure and for shooting that I wasn't going along with that.
Well, I was proven wrong. The first half of the story is told from the Island.that the New Rabies originates, and from New Orleans. This was the most ghastly part! 
But, don't quit, "as I nearly did." What comes after in part 2 is fantastic .
This book is filled with death and destruction. But, it's filled with a kind of hope too.
I honestly hate to say too much. All hope is not lost.
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Of Starlight and Plague Kindle Edition

by Beth Hersant 

Thank you to Beth Hersant, NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary reviewer's copy. I am choosing to leave a fair an honest review.

Ms. Hersant has written a disturbing, creepy and scary love letter to Max Brooks, George Romero and all lovers, writers, directors and watchers/readers of zombie movies. She clearly has done her research!  Like Max Brooks, she has created a zombie virus out of a rabies variant. As the world has come to realize in the last 2+ years, those virus variants are killers. The variant was accidentally created by a half-mad scientist in search of a vaccine. The virus is nearly sentient, in that, like the virus in both versions of The Crazies, has no other purpose that to survive and reproduce. This makes it deadlier, because the victims are mobile for longer than the average rabies victim. The virus is also zoontic, so everything from bats in the caves to the sleeping dog at your feet could be dangerouns.

The zombies she creates are interesting, as are the non-infected character. Ms. Hersant has taken the time to populate her world with a large variety of people, allowing multiple reactions and actions to guide the read.

As I previously mentioned, Ms. Hersant clearly spent a great deal of time researching doomsday prepping, basic fortress strategy and rebuilding society. She has poured most of that knowledge into one wonderful character, the farm mother, Lou. Lou is the heart of the story, bearing the burden of moving the story and the other characters forward.  But in that variety of characters lies the single flaw in the book. There isn't a consistent storytelling type. The beginning is as dry as Michael Crichton's early novels. There is a lot of science we need to absorb. But then the story slides back and forth, with little notice to the reader. It feels like there is a very slight resemblance to a metaphorical ransom note, where as many voices are shoved together to create a whole that is a bit disconcerting.

The story stalls out a bit in sections, and at times that helps the reader catch their breath but at others?

The fear level is there and it appropriately grows as the book goes on. I'm not generally a big zombie reader, but I make an exception for this books.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars
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DNF at 52%

I know that zombie books aren't a paragon of high literature. I expect that. But when I pick up one, I expect to be entertained at least. This is the first boring zombie book I've ever read, so that must be a record. I picked it up because it has a bunch of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads, and now I am honestly baffled. Were we reading the same book? Was there a particular lens I forgot to put on before I started this? I came for mindless zombie fun, what I got instead is a poorly written snooze fest. 

I think the biggest problem here is that the characters are skin deep. Granted, I don't expect great characterization in a zombie book, since most of them will be zombie appetizer, but I expect to have one or two main characters that I can follow through the story. I need to have somebody I can associate myself with and see the world through their eyes. Here, we have no such thing. 

The two people responsible for the plague die by end of part 1. Which is a shame, because it would have been an interesting story to follow them through the pandemic. To see them realize the horror of what they have unleashed and do everything in their power to stop it before the world is destroyed. It's a wasted opportunity and it's such a shame.

Then we have Tammany, an old wise mambo in New Orleans. She seemed interesting and had at least a little depth to her character, even if most of that depth was full of  clichés about voodoo practitioners.  But her story was cut short by the end of part 2. 

By the time I decided to part ways with the book, we were introduced to yet another smart old lady who was planning on surviving the plague with her family. That felt redundant. Why not just continue with Tammany? Why introduce a whole new character, when they serve exactly the same purpose. The story of survival would have been in a swamp in New Orleans in Louisiana instead of a farm up north, but it would have served the same purpose. As it stands, that's yet another character that has to be introduced, yet another conflict that has to be set up from the beginning. 

And that's another problem with this book. Since the author has to set up so many characters, the action constantly jumps back and forth in time. We get to the inevitable "zombie" outbreak from the point of view of one character... then we switch to the very beginning of the story again for the next one and follow them to the same precise moment of the outbreak again. Rinse and repeat. This made me feel like the story is just spinning its wheels without going anywhere. And if a story isn't going anywhere, I eventually loose all interest in it. 

Or the author introduces a character just as they get killed or loose their soul to the New Rabbis then backtracks a few days or weeks to show us how they got there. Problem is, we already know that character is zombie food (or zombie themselves), so why invest time in making an emotional connection with them by learning their story? We won't be following them for long. 

And what about this irritating way that all characters have to quote scientific journals or other sources in their conversations or even in their thoughts? Who, in their right mind does that? Who stops in the middle of their dream to explain a term that she'd known since she was a child? A term that is part of her culture? Yes, that term might be confusing for the reader at first, but most of us are smarter than an average monkey. We can figure out what it means based on the context. Explaining it so blatantly in the text does two things - it insults the reader's intelligence and it immediately pulls them out of the story because it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Same with incessant quotations of scientific articles and research. I get that the author did her research and is proud of it, but why make your characters shove it down my throat in every conversation? If only one character did that, it would have been a quirk and an interesting layer to their character, no matter how strange, but they all do that. The neuroscientists quote medical journals at each other. Wouldn't they have read them independently if they are so good at their job? Tammany quotes voodoo research... which is even more weird. Why would a mambo read research done into her religion by outsiders anyway?

All this made for a very frustrating and boring read. This book had potential. But it needs a good developmental editor to unearth that potential out of the confusing heap of dirt the story is right now.

PS: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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"Read a book about Zombies"

Firstly, thank you so much to Netgalley, Beth Hersant and Matador for giving me this ARC in return for an honest review!  

Obviously living through a real pandemic is not enough for me, I needed to spice things up and add in some zombie husks to fuel my paranoia about the future!  

It has been six months since Dr Aaron Pickman has lost his wife to a hit and run, he throws all his focus into finishing writing his book to deal with the pain and grief.  Rachel Pickman is the forgotten daughter of Aaron, one day she is bitten by a neighbourhood dog and out of fear of angering her busy father she hides her injury, months later Rachel succumbs to rabies.  After Rachel's avoidable death the doctor up and relocates his entire life to a small island in the Caribbean, vowing to cure rabies so no one else need loses their life.  However, he accidentally creates something incurable and deadly and unleashes it onto an unsuspecting world. 

If you're looking for a new zombie apocalypse/pandemic book that delivers a detailed and well researched story that rivals some of the iconic books available, then Of Starlight and Plague needs to be your next read, I promise you will not be disappointed.  

The story is broken up into three parts, giving the reader a view into how "New Rabies" takes over the world, providing a lot of well researched and detailed medical information that really gives the story a realistic feel.  Each character is well written and enjoyable, I found myself emotionally connected to them throughout their survival journey.  One thing I wish was included was more about Tammany's group after they fled New Orleans, it felt like as a reader I was left wondering about what happened to them...  Were they as lucky as Camp North Star?  

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am intrigued about what this author has in store for their career.
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The first part of this book was phenomenal. I couldn’t put it down. Opening up the idea to a super strain of rabies is intriguing to me And Beth did an amazing job pulling you in and creating a story to get lost in. 

However, the second part is where she lost me a bit. It was difficult to switch stories in this book and get involved in another set of characters. 

I would have given it a higher rating if I didn’t have such a disconnect from the beginning to the middle to the end. And it’s not to say it’s Beth’s fault by any means. It just wasn’t something I was a fan of to be honest.
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This was a very good dystopian/apocalyptic novel about a rabies type virus. These are the books that scare me, and yes this one did. Very much so. So read, but be prepared for nightmares.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Matador for the ARC. Mostly a big thank you to Beth Hersant for writing such an intriguing and captivating book.

I flew through this book in one sitting. Once I started I didn't want to put it down. The characters are written so well. 

I love a post apocalyptic novel. And this did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the way it is separated into three parts and has three stories.
I also really liked the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. 

This book deals with love and loss. Family and found family. And most of all survival. It gave me Walking Dead vibes which is a huge compliment from me.

The only think I didn't like was the talk of animal testing. I find any cruelty towards animals extremely hard to read. I understand why it's in the book, it just was hard to read and upset me.

Once again well done Beth!
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Beth Hersant wrote a very interesting dystopian novel that's rooted in reality during the current pandemic and shows us how events could lead to a new supervirus being created, how such a virus can spread, as first locally, and how impossible it is to contain once it reaches the human population.
While reading this book you get this eerie feeling of insignificance, as smart as we think we are, nature will always best us. Either through a virus or climate. Of Starlight and Plague also shows us the resilience of mankind though and their ability to adapt which is why there is always hope. We have an elder woman who turns out to be a natural born leader, a daughter who will follow in her footsteps, "normal" people doing heroic things and it makes the reader wonder: could I adapt? How far am I willing to go to protect those around me?
I was speeding through this book, it's well written, the interest stays because there are a lot of new developments,  the characters are not good or bad, but interestingly in between like all of us and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. 
Some parts are gruesome due to their vivid bloodiness, while others are gruesome on a more subtle level, definitely a book to pick up if you like dystopian novels without the need to go into the future.

*** Thank you Netgalley for giving me the chance to read and review this book ***
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Of Starlight and Plague by Beth Hersant was received directly from the publisher and I chose to review it.  The book is one of the better books of 2021, a time of many substandard books, published by companies, not self-published.  The book starts out with great details on the start of the pandemic and moves on to realistic compound living for the survivors.  This book, to me, was almost like old books by a very well-known author who used to write very good horror novels.  If you, or someone you buy gifts for, enjoys post apocalyptic novels with an engaging storyline that wont get skimmed, give this book a read.

4 Stars
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Dr. Pickman loses his wife and then loses his daughter to rabies. He decides that he will find.a cure for rabies and instead he creates a new strain that affects animals and humans.  With no cure and resistant to the current rabies vaccine, it spreads all over the world. Louella, a woman I’m Pennsylvania invites survivors to her well stocked farm and becomes the leader of this group. 

I just couldn’t put this book down. I love apocalyptic stories and I’ve read so many zombie type books and they are mostly the same (but still enjoyable).  I don’t consider the monsters in this book to be zombies because they are infected with rabies but they are violent and scary just the same.  I hope the author writes more books in this genre.  She did. marvelous job!

Just a warning, there is animal experimentation in this book.
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This book is really in two halves - in the first part we learn how a man, a doctor, loses his daughter to rabies and is determined to find a cure that would save others.  Very altruistic, but no reputable medical institutions will support his research, which is rooted in some serious animal experiments.  So he goes alone with a derelict building on a little Caribbean island, trying to find the cure.  What he creates is a new virus which quickly spreads across the world and hits civilisation hard.

In the second part we see the new world as the virus takes hold, with packs of infected people trying to feed their hunger.  We meet Louella, an old farmer who sees the way things are going and sets out to save as many of her friends and family as she can, offering refuge in her farm.

The book explores humanity, the lengths we will go to survive, and how ordinary humans will step up when circumstances bring them low.  It is very reminiscent of Stephen King's 'The Stand', and certainly kept my attention, even through all the 'sciency bits'.  An interesting dystopia, well described and pacy.

Thank you to NetGalley and Matador for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a real journey of a book. It starts when a doctors daughter dies having contracted rabies. The doctor, in his grief, is frustrated by having to watch his daughter die from a preventable illness - but its only preventable prior to it infecting the brain. He decides to find a way of curing rabies once it has crossed the blood brain barrier. The consequence of this is that he develops New Rabies - vaccine resistant and deadly to animals and humans. New Rabies is released into the community and the world beyond. The story ends up at Camp North Star where a small group of survivors are trying to survive and await the development of a vaccine. 

Given what is going on in the world with COVID, I was really intrigued by this and just how many billions if people can die when viruses are very serious - like ebola or New Rabies could be. I liked all the references from other books that explore this issue through all ages from Shakespeare to World War Z. I was intrigued throughout and the book held my attention but I felt a little disappointed with the ending... it just seemed unlikely knowing how easily transmissible this virus is that the farm would be able to avoid it. I'm not sure whether the end was an actual end or whether there will be another book as it felt unfinished to me... but I know lots of authors now like to leave the ending to the imagination... personally I don't like this as I have little imagination! As a story - its a bit all over the place - the death at the start - the search for a cure - virus escape - virus spread- a Walking Dead type survival episode at the farm and then an incident which puts the farm at risk.... it's quite a tale that moves at a pretty rapid pace.

At the start of this book there is a lot of information and detail about animal experiments that obviously involve pain and suffering to animals, including dogs and monkeys. I really didn't like this and wouldn't have read this book if I'd known... I know that animal testing goes on but I personally  didn't appreciate the level of detail. However, once out of the lab there are few references to it in the remainder of the book. 

Overall, I enjoyed this even though it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Its a bit of a cross over between Outbreak and the Walking Dead. In the current COVID climate, it definitely makes you think about the risks of dealing with deadly viruses in laboratory settings.
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Uhmmm what can I say about this book without giving spoilers but letting people know how good it is, in here it was like a sonata, the book was told in 3 parts, the first told us what happened to the daughter of doctor Pickman, Rachel, she was bitten by a rabid dog, and since she didn’t know better and didn’t want for her dad to be upset with her, she treated herself, and later on this became doctor Pickman greatest regret…

Regrets became desires to change outcomes, and with that bigger regrets come to play… yes, this part took me back to the book the white plague, but for different reasons, doctor pickman wasn’t trying to get revenge, he really wanted to do a good thing, but while trying to do that, he unleashed a greater evil upon the land… and that takes us the last part, how people survive this, or how people become even a bigger threat to other fellow survivors…

For me it was a great book, one that I am glad I can finish this year reading, I loved the book/movies quotes that gave start to each chapter, because to me it gave an idea of what the chapter would talk about or what the author wanted us to think about some sort of situation that would happen in said chapter.

Actually, more than the white plague, this book reminded me of newsflesh series, because of the going back with the stories and then diving deeply into the present and sad endings for some characters, because living happily forever is not a thing that happens in apocalyptic/post apocalyptic books… These are meant to make us sad, ponder, and just be glad because our life is not that dark, and ultimately wish we don’t become as broken as some of our characters, and in the end, that little flash of hope keeps us going.

I really recommend this book to anyone that likes hearing the people's side of things during an apocalypse… but keep in mind these are real people's thoughts and feelings, for some may be boring, since it takes more place than action, but for me it was perfect just as it was ^_~.

I really thank netgalley for this opportunity to read this book, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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We begin with a father losing his daughter to rabies, spurring him to use his medical expertise to search for a cure - no other parent should have to go through this. His valiant attempts have him working nearly alone in an obscure location. When his attempts begin to get to the border of unethical, suddenly chaos ensues! His lab monkeys have escaped and who know what havoc they can wreak. Throughout the spread of a vicious and unknowable disease, we follow the stories of a courageous few. From a voodoo healer to an old lady protecting her family and friends, these heroes are fighting for their lives.

The epidemic rages in an almost too realistic manner! Hersant does a phenomenal job at explaining the origin of a virus and depicting its hasty spread across the world. The depth of the characters, both healthy and infected, drew me in - the true love, the heartache, the fear - all of it was horribly relatable in the midst of our own pandemic (thanks Covid...). 

I generally enjoy reading nonfiction epidemic chronicles, and this fictional version grabbed my attention from the start. Highly highly recommend this book!
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Thanks to Matador and NetGalley for the opportunity to read 'Of Starlight and Plague' by Beth Hersant.

I think there's a good book in here (or possibly even a series) desperate to get out but in all honesty it felt like a draft rather than a final version and I believe would've benefited from some strong editorial intervention.

The story's a good one, a variation on the apocalyptic plague/pandemic, so timely at the minute obviously, and the individual pieces - the setup, the Caribbean island, the New Orleans bit, and the rural Pennsylvania chunk - are all very engaging as stand alone pieces. I'm giving this three stars instead of two because I enjoyed those individual pieces and thought the characters were well done. The author wasn't afraid to make the tough choices with characters in order to move the individual pieces on and keep as real as possible.

For me the main problem is that they don't really knit together very well beyond all of them being linked to the virus. To give the benefit of the doubt you could say that they're all stages in the evolution of the story and the virus but they all seem utterly independent of the next piece. I kept waiting for the New Orleans element to come back into the story at some point, but it doesn't. We lose a really interesting and intriguing strand into the aether. The introduction of the voodoo element was one of the more original elements of the novel. Ironically, although I said above that an editor was needed, maybe a longer book with more judicious editing might've made for a more satisfying story or some structural work could've set it up for a strong series.

Another thing an editor could've helped with is that the novel has a very intrusive narrator who continually got in the way of the story and the characters. There are constant interruptions of the flow of the narrative with 'as X says in X' where the narrator (or through the narrator, one of the characters) recalls and relates - in full - some quote from a historical source, report, film, novel, etc. It feels like the author had done a lot of research for the novel and is, by golly, going to make that obvious. In one particularly intrusive passage late on in the book, in the space of a page and a half while explaining self preservation (which most of us innately understand, in any case) we were served up quotes/references about self preservation from (1) the APA Dictionary of Psychology, (2) Sigmund Freud, (3) Nigel Nicholson/Harvard Business Review, (4) Yann Martel in "Life of Pi," and (5) Robert Carlyle’s character in "28 Weeks Later." 

One of the things I did like about this book was that, even though it was obviously a portrait of a society disintegrating, it wasn't completely without hope for the future. Although the author didn't set it up for a sequel I could see this being the basis for a series along the lines of James Howard Kunstler's 'World Made by Hand' novels. It might also give the author a chance to revisit this first instalment to tidy it up a bit and maybe reposition the New Orleans thread a little so that it could re-enter the story in a later instalment. Maybe the character of Owen eventually chooses to follow his initial desire and make the long journey to see if his parents survived - there are all sorts of possibilities. 

I'd certainly give a sequel a chance but would hope that some of the structural issues were resolved and that the narrator was much less intrusive.
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Super rabies

I enjoyed this apocalyptic tale about a rampant super rabies virus. It starts with how the virus was created and then how it became a deadly pandemic.

I especially liked the stories of the survivor groups. In this era of pandemics, this story hits close to home and is well written.

I received this book from Matador Books through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.
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This was...a strange book. It's like the author couldn't decide what she was trying to write. I really wanted to like this, as the synopsis hit all the right buttons with me, but the novel itself just ended up a failure for me.

One major annoyance was the insertion of quotes from every damn source the author could come up with. Their were, simply put, way too many. It broke up the flow of the book to wade through two or three selections of other writing on every page. Secondly, the narrative voice was off-putting and wandered all over. It kicked me out of the story so many times so read something like "(character) faced down the threat before her and knew she would make it through. Little did she know she was wrong." or "(characters make a decision) You might think you wouldn't make a similar decision in such a situation, but who really knows what would happen to morality at a time like this?"

There were some interesting bits that were brought up and then quickly discarded. The New Orleans voudou practitioner was so intriguing! I wanted to follow along on her story as she did her best to save people from the encroaching zombies. Then, abruptly, her part ended and we never followed through on what happened to her people. Instead, the story switches to another group that is, actually, kinda boring and stays with them for the majority of the book.

One more tiny little thing. If you are writing a book that is set primarily in the United States, please be sure to change all instances of 'petrol' to 'gas' and 'mobile' to 'cell phone'.

Overall, this was disappointing. I would not recommend.
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A fast entertaining read. A man made plague runs amok and the desperate run for survival.  Read it in one night of creepy immersion. So good. 

Thank you NetGalley for this arc
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I couldn't help it as soon as I seen I was approved for this ebook I had to jump straight into it. 

Of Starlight and Plague by Beth Hersant
Was a great quick story. 
Which I'm honestly surprised I enjoyed this book alot more than I originally thought.
I really enjoyed the pacing and the slow-tidbits of reveals.
It was wild and exciting and above all fascinating.
This was a one sitting read and honestly I didn't want it to end so soon.
I really got into it. 
The descriptive sense was also quite brilliant, the subtle unnerving tones building the fear, some of it visceral and sudden, other parts quietly disturbing. 
This novel shows us another side of what "could" happen. 
Maybe not this exact plot, but between natural disasters, unpredictable disease, and social unrest we could be teetering on the edge. And that's what I love about these books!
Overall, A fantastic story. And I hope to see more of Beth.

Matador and NetGalley,
Thank you for this eARC.
I will post and tag to my platforms closer to pub date!
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Of Starlight and Plague by Beth Hersant

A good read which is very relatable to what is going on now. Fully believable on how things could go wrong if the very worse type of virus were to take hold .
Great characters , and plot line. Would read other titles by this author.
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