We live in an age of wonders. Modern medicine has conquered or contained many of the diseases that used to carry c...

Review || Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Gran

We live in an age of wonders.

Modern medicine has conquered or contained many of the diseases that used to carry children away before their time, reducing mortality and improving health. Vaccination and treatment are widely available, not held in reserve for the chosen few. There are still monsters left to fight, but the old ones, the simple ones, trouble us no more.

Or so we thought. For with the reduction in danger comes the erosion of memory, as pandemics fade from memory into story into fairy tale. Those old diseases can’t have been so bad, people say, or we wouldn’t be here to talk about them. They don’t matter. They’re never coming back.

How wrong we could be.
It begins with a fever. By the time the spots appear, it’s too late: Morris’s disease is loose on the world, and the bodies of the dead begin to pile high in the streets. When its terrible side consequences for the survivors become clear, something must be done, or the dying will never stop. For Dr. Isabella Gauley, whose niece was the first confirmed victim, the route forward is neither clear nor strictly ethical, but it may be the only way to save a world already in crisis. It may be the only way to atone for her part in everything that’s happened.

She will never be forgiven, not by herself, and not by anyone else. But she can, perhaps, do the right thing.

We live in an age of monsters.

Lisa Morris, age 8, is Patient Zero in this novella's unflinching look into a new pandemic of a mutated strain of measles, afterward known as Morris's disease.  She feels unwell but doesn't want to miss a day at the amusement park by telling her parents she feels ill. After her day at the park, she travels back from Florida with her parents, spreading infection like wildfire. Shortly after arriving home, Lisa dies. The virus, however, doesn't die with Lisa. 

As with any unchecked infectious disease, Morris's disease, or measles encephalitis,  spread quickly in the days that followed. Even more terrifying is what came after: "the strange forgetfulness of the human immune system following exposure". If the death toll from the initial wave of Morris's disease wasn't high enough, then came Whooping cough, and then an outbreak of Mumps, and it continued. 
"A person who survived measles who lose some measure of their preexisting immunity to other diseases, whether that immunity has been aquired through natural or manmade means.By waltzing across the world, Morris had, effectively, rendered the entire population unvaccinated, and now the terrible consequences of that reality were being revealed."
Now you would think that the remainder of the novella might concentrate on a brave scientist finding the cure or of the doctors and nurses resulting struggle against the disease, or even a post-apocalyptic survivors tale. But this story takes a different turn. The rest of the narrative belongs to pediatrician and former virologist, Dr. Isabella Gauley, Lisa's aunt. There's no hero bringing light to the darkness here. Just a woman who is willing to do whatever it takes, good or bad, to save even a fraction of humanity. A woman who may have dark secrets of her own. 

 Kingdom of Needle and Bone takes an uncompromising stance against the anti-vaccination movement and the concrete need for herd immunity. It also touches on bodily autonomy and it's legal ramifications.

The terrifying reality is this: Kingdom of Needle and Bone's scenario is one that could truly happen. In fact, it has. We only need to look into our past to find the existence of other such instances. The bubonic plague wiped out 75-200 million people in the 1300's. Cholera, 1 million people in the 1850's. Asian flu, 2 million, in the 1950's. AIDS/HIV, 36 million.

Sometimes the scariest fiction is the one that isn't so far off the truth.

About the Author

Mira Grant

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.
Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.
Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.
Mira also writes as Seanan McGuire.