- Cold Storage
Author: David Koepp
- ISBN: 9780008334505
- Published: September 2019
- Pages: 320
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 28/11/2019
- Language: English
We are only one mutation away from an organism that could wipe out humans. Sound all dystopian and farfetched? This is what I was reading in the paper this very morning as super bugs are becoming increasingly prevalent and our conventional medicines are having no effect. David Koepp is an author who is aware of the threat but shows in Cold Storage that the threat may not come from without, but within. If our governments are storing batches of these deadly organisms, what happens if they are neglected.
During the 80s a mutated organism lay waste to a remote village. Unable to save the people, the US Government firebombed the place. The only survivors being two military specialists and a small sample of the organism. For 30+ years this organism has remained almost dormant in cold storage deep within a mountain. However, during the same 30+ years the apparent threat has also been ignored and this military storage is now civilian storage units. With the world heating up, the cold mountain may no longer be chilly enough to prevent the spread of this extinction level threat.
Koepp is best known as a screenwriter who has worked on some loud summer blockbusters. The concept of Cold Storage would appear to fit into the same wheelhouse, but although the idea may be huge, the execution is satisfactory simple. Rather than fill the book with government agencies and thousands of extras, Koepp keeps things low key. A science fiction action book becomes more or an intimate horror.
The main protagonist is Roberto Diaz, a Pentagon bioterror specialist who was present during the original outbreak but has retired since. He was always trained to work in the grey areas of the law so when he is asked to come back to work, he takes matters into his own hands. It is great to read a character in their prime and later in their Autumn years. Koepp does not create a superhero, but an older man who can no longer do everything himself. It is refreshing to read a character who wants to help, but whose own body fails him.
Diaz is not the only character in the book, there are those that work or are using the remote storage facility. Koepp spends time building up a backstory for many of them, so when they meet their fate you feel like you have grown to know them. The idea feels reminiscent of one of horror’s greats, James Herbert and specifically the Rats books. However, whilst Herbert’s victim vignettes were fast and fearsome, Koepp’s are languid. At time the book could speed along a little quicker. I am not sure I am that interested in how Diaz decorated his home.
The final and most important character in the book is the organism itself. It starts as a fungus, but after interacting with space debris that fell to Earth it morphed into something that transmutes and expands rapidly. Koepp create real fear and thrills in the way that the organism can break down materials and use them to build itself. He also imbues the fungus with an intelligence, it seeks high ground so that it can spore and spread wider. In places the organism is written with a little too much personification. It is a thing driven by the need to multiply and it feels odd for it to have the almost human emotions provided it at times within this book. There is enough terror to be had from an expanding fungus that has no purpose but to envelop and ingest.
The book flicks between the various characters and at its best it is tense horror thriller. With relatively few characters and locations, it is a surprisingly intimate book. This only highlights the oddity of reading from the point of view of a pool of green mush. For readers looking for an entertaining and slightly silly technothriller with horror elements, this does the trick. It is a little silly at times, but never fails to entertain.
Written on 28th November 2019 by Sam Tyler .