“The Jakarta Pandemic” by Steven Konkoly

The novel I’ve finished most recently for this book review series is “The Jakarta Pandemic” by Steven Konkoly(Kindle edition).  Before I even bother going into any detail, let me just say that purchasing the Kindle edition of this book might very well represent the best $3.99 that I have ever spent, so I encourage each and every one of you to check it out.  The paperback version is more expensive, but it’s worth it.  I’ve paid more for trade paperbacks that paled in comparison to Mr. Konkoly’s work.

As far as the story goes, it follows a suburban Prepper family in the Northeast U.S. during a severe, worldwide influenza pandemic that originates in Jakarta (hence the title) in the near future.

One thing I need to say upfront is that these are city-folk with money.  The husband is an Iraq war vet who is working as a Big Pharma Rep. as the story begins, and the wife works for a big accounting firm.  They have solar panels and a battery bank, and they have easily a year’s worth of food and medical supplies stored in a locked room in their basement that they refer to colloquially as “the bunker.”

They have a small arsenal of firearms, but this is not a Rawles book by any stretch of the imagination.  The husband owns an AR-15 assault rifle, a .45 handgun, and a Mossberg shotgun; the wife has a 9mm that she touches maybe three times in the whole book.  Also, they’re vegetarians.

I tell you all these things, not to point them out as weaknesses, but simply to make you understand that this isn’t your everyday survivalist fiction.  This is a story about a Prepper family hunkering-down and surviving in their home in the midst of a dangerous, but ultimately temporary emergency situation, and it’s a very good story.

In all honesty and putting aside the fact that most readers don’t necessarily enjoy the upper-middle-class existence of the family in the book, it will probably come off as more “real” to many folks than stories about survival groups gathering on large rural ranches with huge arsenals of guns.

The novel is split between three sections: the early onset of the pandemic; the period during which the family self-quarantines themselves inside their home; and the span where things get the most dangerous, and the family’s very survival is in question from threats more dangerous than the flu.  

The real problems arise when rampant absenteeism and hospitalizations caused by the pandemic results in the unraveling of such linchpins of modern life as electricity, on-time food deliveries, and easily-accessible medical care.  

Mounting scarcity causes neighbors to turn against neighbors, and big cities are consumed by rioting and lawlessness.  Our characters get most of that news from afar, however, until refugees from further south begin to invade their sleepy suburb in Maine — some of which are of the type that you do not want as neighbors, especially when the police aren’t necessarily a quick 911 call away.

All in all, it’s got action and the characters are easy to relate to and care about, which is a big deal for me as a reader.  Also, the chapters are short, quick reads, giving the whole experience a fast-paced quality that reminded me of a Dan Brown novel.