Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Virals Shows Off Kathy Reichs' Younger (But Still Scientific) Side

It took me over a month to listen to Kathy Reichs' new YA novel Virals via Audible on my iPod. That in no way indicates how much or little I liked the novel; it is simply a reflection of how little time I've been able to spend listening to an audio book. My opportunities to listen to audiobooks in the last month were fairly limited: in the car on the way to work and just before going to sleep at night. I enjoyed the narrator and the book; however, I think when the second Virals book is released I'll be picking up a copy or e-book of it rather than listening.

The reason for this is simple: Reichs is an amazing author whose books I always enjoy. I love her Tempe Brennan series, and I've read almost all of them. (I think there was only one I abandoned because I simply couldn't get into it.) But. She also is a master of dense descriptions, both in setting and in technical language. Although I enjoyed listening to the audio version of this book, I feel that I would have been able to sink myself into it more thoroughly if I had been able to see the words she had written rather than hearing them.

On every learning-styles quiz I've ever taken, I score highest in visual and verbal categories and lowest in auditory. As a result, most of the books I listen to are lighter in subject matter and less dependent on my hearing and remembering every word -- I simply won't be able to! Because Virals was YA, I expected (I guess) a dumbed-down version of Reichs' normal scientific prose.

Virals is fascinating because Reichs does exactly the opposite -- and it works. Rather than having anything dumbed-down, Reichs pulls her YA characters up to par with Tempe. The book's main character Tory Brennan (niece to Tempe) and her band of friends are anything but your normal teenagers. Rather, they are high-IQ geeks who know much about both the sciences and technology.

While visiting a local South Carolina island that is home to a research facility, Tempe and friends happen upon a set of Vietnam-era dog tags. When they break into a supposedly-abandoned lab to examine the dog tags more closely, they find a caged wolf-canine mix that has been infected with the parvovirus. After rescuing the dog, things begin to heat up for the group as the mystery deepens and murder seems to be at hand.

Reichs does an excellent job writing on a YA level that will appeal to teens, but she mixes in her own expertise in forensic sciences, as well. There is also a science-fiction element to the novel that will continue into the other books in the series. Reichs has, therefore, written a novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy some fantasy in their reading material -- and let's face it: that applies to many YA readers. The most popular YA series seem to have a certain fantastical element (at least, recently): the Twilight saga, the Hunger Games series, and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, just to name a few.

My only gripe with the book is with Tory's group of male friends. Ben, Hi, and Shelton were interesting as a group, but indistinguishable from one another. Especially with my listening to it rather than reading, I could tell almost no individual traits for these boys. I wanted to like them as individuals rather than as a group, but it was difficult to tell them apart. Hopefully in future installments, there will be story lines that separate them from one another.

Kathy Reichs is, of course, the author of the popular Tempe Brennan forensic anthropologist series. A new Virals series book, Seizure, will be released this fall.


  1. I have this book on my wishlist but still haven't read it. I am glad you liked it, I didn't know the author had more books.

  2. Yes, the Tempe series is the inspiration for the TV show Bones. Both are based on Reichs' real life experiences as a forensic anthropologist.



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