Monday, May 9, 2022

The Fervor by Alma Katsu


This is such a stunning cover! Props to the designer of it--there's so much to see the more you look. It gives some hints as to the plot of The Fervor. Once again, Alma Katsu creates historical fiction with a tinge of horror that just might keep you up at night. It's also a commentary on today's America. 

It's World War 2, and America has taken Japanese Americans from their homes and moved them to internment camps, all in the name of protecting America from the enemy. Meiko Briggs and her daughter Aiko are in one such camp, tucked away in a remote area of Idaho. It doesn't matter that Meiko is married to a white American man who is an air force pilot fighting in the Pacific--she's Japanese, so she can't be trusted. 

The camp is, well, what it is; however things have been fairly stable, until a deadly disease starts making the rounds. It's a really odd disease-people fall into uncontrollable rages, capable of violence. What starts out as a seemingly natural cold is clearly not that. At first it's the Japanese in the internment camps, but it quickly spreads to guards and other workers at the camp. Suddenly Army officials are coming to the camp, doing their best to contain the outbreak and keep it from spreading to nearby towns. 

Could this be something from the mysterious balloon-like objects people are finding in the woods all over Oregon, Washington, and Idaho? Is it the work of the Japanese Government? Lots of people think so, and the anger against Japanese Americans grows even more into a dangerous angry mob mentality. 

Aiko, however, draws all sorts of Japanese demons and creatures, and tells her mother they are afoot--and there are reports of men seeing a Japanese woman in random, out of the way places, holding a baby. Is she part of Japanese mythology? Has evil come to roost? And oh--the spiders! EEK

There are more characters on the outside of the camp--there's Archie, a young minister who loses his pregnant wife in a horrible accident, and Fran, a young investigative reporter who senses a story is being buried by the government. Archie is also tied to Meiko-she's the wife of his best friend, Jamie. Archie betrayed Jamie's trust and sent Meiko to the internment camp. 

Lots of complex ties here, and even the government involvement is a twisty mess. It's an interesting mix of hysteria, aggression against people who aren't white, and a whole lot of false information whipping people up into a frenzy. Sound familiar?

These lines from the novel are pretty spot on: "The fervor would ebb and flow, but it would never fully die. It had been there since long before the first explosion. She knew someday, the fervor would be back. And when it came, they'd be no readier for it than they were today." 

This is a really interesting blend of Japanese mythology, history, and bizarre weapons of war. Alma Katsu talked to family members who were forced into internment camps during World War 2, and in her afterword speaks about the violence Asian Americans have experienced since the 1800's. It's nothing new, and sadly, something that never seems to stop. 

You'll find yourself being a little more cautious around spiders after reading this novel. A novel that will keep your interest, and maybe have you digging into U.S. history. Sadly, history does repeat itself over and over. 

Rating: 4/6 for a blend of mythology, supernatural, warfare, and hysteria, along with a dark period in U.S. history. Alma Katsu skillfully weaves all of these together in a story that keeps you guessing and brushing imaginary spiders off your face. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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