A timely, allegorical thriller that never loses sight of its humans as it tracks a mysterious, uncontrollable virus haunting the UK.
A great start doesn’t make a great book. Still, a great start is exhilarating. It lures you in and keeps you reading. And more often than not it proves to be a very good omen for what follows. The start of Panik is and proves to be all the above.
It begins firmly grounded to reality in order to introduce us to Rosa – one part of its leading (un)holy trinity of characters. We meet her as her life comes undone when her adopted father and mother become two of the very first victims of the brutal, puzzling new illness that spreads like a virus. At this point the only odd element is Ana – Rosa’s inner voice and guardian.
When we next meet the other two of the trinity some time has passed and ‘odd’ has become too little a word to describe what is happening. Oxford is cordoned off, people are struggling to stay awake, and the government desperately tries to control not only the Panik, but also the hysteria that threaten to wipe England and Wales off the map. Metaphysical and surreal elements creep into the narrative more and more now, while the intriguing unanswered questions keep multiplying. At the same time some passing comments by Rosa’s brother make implicit Chris Selwyn James’ intention to write this book as a response to/allegory for Brexit. But as the new Coronavirus spreads around the world, his work becomes, unintentionally, even more relevant. And that’s the only reason why some may find Panik’s venturing into the genre of Fantasy and the supernatural somewhat off-putting.
But for the rest, back on paper, people keep falling asleep, and dying. And the government in tandem with big pharma keep making plans, and failing. And the haunting questions keep on coming, with no answer in sight, as traces of horror are fittingly introduced into the story. All the while James never loses his focus on his three main (anti)heroes and all their flawed, neither only good, nor merely bad, always grey and never black & white humanity. In the end that you could never have predicted and stays with you, open, inconclusive, as you struggling to decipher it, fear is revealed as the most potent virus and compassion its only possible cure.
This was fist published on Discovery platform @ https://reedsy.com/discovery/user/ioanna-papageorgiou