Friday, November 21, 2014
Orfeo by Richard Powers
The musical theme is woven into a larger commentary on society in the 21st century. Els comes to the attention of the local authorities when he calls 911 when his dog has a sudden stroke. They advise him to call animal control as he cannot dispose of the body himself, and when they return to follow up on that they discover his homemade biology lab and bring in the FBI. Who go way overboard, which spooks Els, who then becomes a wanted fugitive on the run. The public hysteria about his homegrown virus and its potential for lethality is very believable in the post-Ebola hysteria that was whipped up by a 24 hour news cycle and social media. That is more or less what happens here, and Els decides in the end that he needs to use social media to fight back. He gets a Twitter account and starts his defense, 140 characters at a time. It is an unusual but largely enjoyable novel very much set in our time.