Robert Farrell, Doctor Janeway’s Plague (iUniverse, 2001)
[originally posted 16Nov2001]
The first thing I thought of when seeing the title of his novel was “oh, great, another Star Trek tie-in. Say it ain’t so, Jimbob.” Well, it ain’t so, Billy Jack. The Janeway of the title is Robert H. Janeway, namesake of the Mayflower minister and lecturer at a Boston college. Perhaps. Or is he the same guy, still looking like he’s forty even though he’s ten times as old. And if so, how has he managed to keep himself so well-preserved? Such are the questions facing one Mollie Tailor, who believes herself to be a distant cousin of Janeway’s. She gets her answers, and complications, as usual, ensue.
This is a fast novel. It’s also quite capable of hooking a reader and pulling him along, as I found out. I started this expecting I’d read fifty pages, then move onto something else I had in rotation, then come back and read another fifty, and so on, as I usually do. When I looked up, I was thirty pages from the end, a whole afternoon had elapsed, and I was late for a doctor’s appointment. Whoops. It’s pretty heavily plot-driven, and some minor characters suffer for it, but this is forgivable in the greater scheme of things; the major characters are well-drawn and keep the reader’s attention. It’s also the first horror novel I’ve come across that uses astrophysics and actually makes it halfway believable. (The cheese factor of the climax will probably vary according to reader. I loved it.)
There are a few niggling problems I had with it, but they are minor at best. A few cultural references that could have been better documented (e.g., I know what “The Moldau” is thanks to having read The Inextinguishable Symphony last year, but I’m guessing most people not familiar with modern classical music are going to have that reference jar), some errors that are equally likely the fault of editors or conversion to PDF rather than the author’s problems. So there aren’t really any major knocks against it; the reader of modern horror novels will find little to complain about here. I look forward to Mr. Farrell’s next effort. ***