Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

Army epidemiologist Frank Slater is facing a court-martial, but after his punishment is mysteriously lifted, he is offered a job no one else wants-to travel to a small island off the coast of Alaska and investigate a potentially lethal phenomenon. The permafrost has begun to melt, exposing bodies from a colony that was wiped out by the dreaded Spanish flu of 1918. Frank must determine if the thawed remains still carry the deadly virus in their frozen flesh and, if so, ensure that it doesn't come back to life. Frank and his handpicked team arrive by helicopter, prepared to exhume history. The colony, it transpires, was once settled by a sect devoted to the mad Russian monk Rasputin, but there is even more hiding in the past than Frank's team is aware of. Any hope of success hinges on their willingness to accept the fact that even their cutting-edge science has its limits, and that the ancient wisdom of the Inuit people who once inhabited this eerie land is as essential as any serum. Frank soon finds himself in a brutal race against time. With a young, strong-willed Inuit woman by his side, he must put a deadly genie back in the bottle before all of humanity pays the price.

From the library

First, I’m not entirely sure why the author was so vehemently pro-Czar and anti-Communist but he really, really was. There was constant harping on how wonderful the Czar and his family were (with, of course, not a single mention of any of the problems with the Czar’s rule) and how bad everyone else was. I’ve really never read any fiction where the author was such a fan of a truly evil figure. It was really like listening to someone proclaim just what a wonderful and caring human being General Sherman was and how inspiring his complete destruction of the South on his infamous March to the Sea was. Apparently the Czar could torture puppies and kittens and the author would be okay with it because he’s the Czar and that makes it okay.

Oddly enough, the author seems to dislike New Englanders as much as he loves the Czar (which was particularly offensive since I’m a New Englander myself). The only two characters from New England are pale faced, gingham garbed religious zealots (one an uber bitch and one with below average intelligence who loves vampire romances) with horrific accents. Clearly, the author still believes that everyone in New England is a batshit crazy Puritan because it’s obviously still 1635 in his world.

I gather the reader was supposed to somehow sympathize with Anastasia through the portions about her “traumatic” life but, frankly, all I felt for her was complete disgust. I’m pretty sure the author intended her to come across as marginally tolerable but she really wasn’t. She was a spoiled little brat, constantly complaining about the “horrors” she had to endure (i.e. being “trapped” inside the Winter Palace after the revolution, having to endure no longer being a Grand Duchess, etc.). If I had to listen to one more word about her “poor treatment” as a prisoner (riding on a luxury train complete with staff) I might have actually thrown my iPod against the wall. She was an obnoxious, horrible creature and I was frankly quite pleased at her ultimate fate as she quite deserved it. Although, I wish it had happened earlier and she hadn’t been able to hurt anyone else with her disgusting selfishness.

The “hero”, Frank Slater, was annoying as well. He had an unfortunate “holier than thou” attitude since he thought his level of education and status in the U.S. Army made him infallible. He was irresponsible beyond belief on multiple occasions and was shocked each and every time that he was reprimanded. His arrogance truly knew no bounds. He also clearly had no compunction to actually honor his medical oath of doing no harm since he was constantly putting multiple people’s lives at stake to somehow satisfy his own hero complex. I found myself muttering “OMG, what a prick!” several times while suffering through this nightmare. By the end of the book I genuinely found myself rooting for his slow and painful death - which would not help the people who died because of his incompetence but it would have been some small comfort. If Slater is a representation of what actually goes on with the people supposedly protecting the public health in the United States then I’m certain we will all die from an outbreak.

Also included was the ever popular headstrong but beautiful female sidekick. Because she could be as irresponsible and outright dangerous as she wanted and it was okay because she was beautiful. So, the message is, “Sure, put the entire Earth’s health at risk because of your outrageous behavior but it’s okay because you’re gorgeous.”.

The reader was also problematic. I’m not entirely sure English was his native language since he felt the need to emphasize nearly every word in a sentence. Seriously, nearly every word. The flow was completely messed up by his over emphasis and the story very quickly lost whatever joy it might have had. He also mispronounced many, many words. Just outright mispronounced them. I was under the impression that there was someone at least supervising the reading of this audiobook, but clearly they were too busy on Facebook to actually do their job and listen to the performance since it was a giant mess.

Overall, I really cannot recommend this at all. The story was marginally intriguing but the characters were obnoxious at best and completely unsympathetic, and the performance was abysmal.

☆☆☆☆ = Didn't Like It

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