Blue Plague: The Great Silence is a post-apocalyptic novella set in Seattle in the near future.
Bruce, a 55-year-old man, was gay-bashed while on a job in some tropical area of the world. On the flight home, he meets Juliet and her “service dog” Romeo who share Bruce’s first-class row. Turns out Romeo had been bitten by a monkey on the trip and Juliet was obnoxious about Romeo, her wealth, and wanting Bruce to give up his seat for Romeo. He didn’t, but was bothered by dog and owner the entire trip. Burk, the young, sexy flight attendant, took extra-special care of Bruce—and even accepted his invitation to stay over at his posh Capitol Hill home. (Okay, I totally made that sound like they had sexytimes, which wasn’t true. But, Burk was nice, saw Bruce was banged up from the gay-bashing, and decided he’d spend his layover helping the older, rather sexy, gentleman recuperate.)
Meanwhile, Juliet and her entire household are ground-zero for a deadly blue plague that sweeps over the population of Seattle and the world. As Bruce builds his strength, Burk takes charge, collecting supplies and stockpiling weapons, whenever possible. They attempt to make Bruce’s home a stronghold. Throughout this experience, Bruce wonders at the silence of his world—at how many people must now be dead to make such a previously teeming place so immediately desolate.
While on a foraging mission, Bruce and Burk encounter a man named Finn, struggling to make do as medical supplies dwindle. While there aren’t walking dead, there are dangerous people who would kill survivors to take their supplies. So, Bruce and Burk take in Finn, building a friendship with him as they also build a rapport for each other. Bruce thinks Burk is nuts, mostly because Burk finds Bruce attractive. They have some physical connections, but it’s very much on the down low and with minimal description. These intrepid survivors continue to scavenge the area, finding survivors when they can and even venturing out to a local cathedral. There they meet a stranded priest who is trying to build a sanctuary for those who remain. It becomes a beacon of hope to all who hear the bells Finn repairs.
For me, this story was far less a romance than the blurb implied. There is very little physical love between Bruce and Burk on the page. As far as the suspense/thrills of a post-apocalyptic setting, and being in the midst of a plague that is taking out 90% of the population, I didn’t feel the terror I’d expected. Maybe because most of the early story was carried by Bruce who was on painkillers and kept in the dark about the dire times by Burk, who’s apparently a Doomsday Prepper in his spare time. I felt constantly removed from the action and the romance, and the story seemed to go on with amazingly little conflict given the setting and circumstances. The electrical grid is out and there are real worries about resources, yet…there was almost never a moment when I felt worried about Bruce or Burk.g In this type of story, lack of struggle, peril, and empathetic moments critically impaired my enjoyment.
I felt this book was a bit of a miss in the genres. What I did like were the honest plights of folks in such circumstances. For example, Finn, who is trans, is truly suffering in his transition as a result of lack of testosterone. That was an unique viewpoint. Also, I liked the characters. They are interesting and quirky. They care a lot for each other and are always looking for the best in people. Even cynical Bruce, who really only found love when the whole world pretty much burned down around him. I just wished there was some more suspense, or danger, or love in this one.