Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: The Panic Zone by Rick Mofina


A car crashes in Wyoming:
A young mother is thrown clear of the devastating car crash. Dazed, she sees a figure pull her infant son from the flames. Or does she? The police believe it's a case of trauma playing cruel tricks on the mind, until the night the grief-stricken woman hears a voice through the phone: "Your baby is alive."

A bomb explodes in a Rio de Janeiro café:
The heinous act kills ten people, including two journalists with the World Press Alliance news agency. Jack Gannon's first international assignment is to find out whether his colleagues were innocent victims or targets who got too close to a huge story.

A Caribbean cruise ends in horror:
Doctors are desperate to identify the mysterious cause of a cruise ship passenger's agonizing death. They turn to the world's top scientists, who fear that someone has resurrected their long-buried secret research. Research that is now being used as a deadly weapon.

With millions of lives at stake, experts work frantically against time. And as an anguished mother searches for her child and Jack Gannon pursues the truth, an unstoppable force hurls them all into the panic zone.


Wrenchingly realistic and brilliantly in depth, The Panic Zone is a fictional take on something current technology could have the power to make happen. With a highly complex plot, a wide cast of characters, and strong, smooth writing, this book pulls in the reader at the start and continues to grip tighter throughout.

Although the book has many characters, the primary focus is on Jack Gannon, a New York journalist. Single and without children, Jack feels he only has his reporting in his life. He is quiet and has an interesting mindset though often comes off as much more immature and younger than his age would imply. He is straightforward and simplistic at times but still holds a deeper ability to pick up on things others miss. Some of this is clearly from his journalism experience while the rest is something inherent. He is a very likeable and relatable character, garnering reader sympathy and interest early.

Emma is also focused on, with her own story arc playing a large part in the overall plot. Her grief at losing her husband and child is palpable and beautifully written. Her determination that her son is alive is just as tangible. Emma is a strong woman, holding hints of tenderness but in the face of her situation, she is pure grizzly. As her role grows stronger, the sympathies towards her do as well and she is as prominent and memorable as Jack.

The plot itself is creepy in how easily it could go into place. The culprits have not suddenly shown up with a new biological weapon, but have been putting the entire experiment into place for a long time. The extent to which it covers and the number of people involved is astounding, and Mofina does a remarkable job weaving it all together. Despite the intricate plot, everything is revealed at a steady pace without bogging the reader down or being overly verbose. There is a high level of action in this book, and the plot pushes quickly.

A third person perspective gives intimate light onto many of the characters besides Emma and Jack, helping to tell the entire story in bits even before Jack gains access to them. Motivations and pushing factors are slipped in for many of the characters, leaving the reader with few questions of why at the end. The overall picture starts falling into place early while the investigation continues but Mofina maintains plenty of twists, unforeseen turns, and shocking revelations. Some chapters are short, giving just enough before switching to focus on someone else and somewhere else.

A gruesomely vivid reminder of how little invincibility we have and how vulnerable we are to any change in microorganisms around us, The Panic Zone is sobering and gripping. Mofina’s writing is strong and his descriptions hold a tormenting beauty to them in many of the rougher scenes. With a disturbing premise and a stunning play out, The Panic Zone is a book that will jar readers and stick with them longer after it’s finished.

Source: Review copy received from Planned Television Arts
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Mira (June 29, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0778327949
ISBN-13: 978-0778327943

Author's Website

1 comment:

  1. Love your review Kari! I've read (and loved) several other books by Mofina, and can't wait to read this one as well. It does sound all too plausible! :)