Book Review: Ammon’s Horn by Stan Timmons

“Imaginative and well-written.”

ammon'sDanny Sullivan and Gemma Goode are a young couple fighting for survival in a pre- and post-apocalyptic America (and world) shattered by a viral threat like no other.

Ammon’s Horn deals not with the usual zombie infestation, but with the results of a CIA-engineered, out-of-control virus that triggers paranoia in the Ammon’s horn region of the brain. Sufferers are known as ‘noids for their violent paranoid behaviour, occasionally captured in gruesome detail. But unlike the undead, who stay pretty consistent in their frenzied need to gnaw on human flesh, ‘noids can retreat after an attack, blend into the background and forget their actions until their stress levels build and they attack again. In this way, characters aren’t sure about each other or even themselves—the virtual definition of paranoia.

The book is imaginative and well-written and the science behind the escalation of the disease and its connection with 21st century pandemics and even Mad Cow Disease is impressive and convincing. One of many sub-plots involves the intriguing possibility that the president of the United States is infected and about to nuke a dangerous North Korea.

Interesting stuff, but one downside is that the author has a tendency to throw in too many characters as little more than plot points to be cast aside when no longer needed. As a result, the book feels episodic as it ambles from one met character or situation to the next, leaving several potentially interesting subplots underdeveloped. For instance, Johnny, a young teen with a virtually supernatural knack for mimicry, shows up in the middle of the story only long enough to pique reader interest. Perhaps Timmons will one day give Johnny his own story. It might well be worth reading.

And while the pandemic is better thought out than much of the endless spate of zombie tales, the framework is all too familiar: creepy, violent, mysterious beginnings nurture a growing suspicion that something is not quite right, followed quickly by societal breakdown.

In addition, the two main characters are a little too pat. Gemma just happens to be an investigative TV reporter with a popular syndicated show about weird doings and Danny is a hard-bitten Chicago cop and criminal profiler. It’s as though the two have the perfect backgrounds for advancing the plot, and those are the only reasons they have such jobs. The reader never feels much of an emotional connection with the two.

Nevertheless, Ammon’s Horn has enough brains and brawn to keep readers turning pages. With a little more heart it would be a killer of a tale.

DAVID SEARLS

Publisher: Permuted Press
Paperback (270pp)
Release Date: 14 February 2013

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