Books by State: Wyoming

The Totem by David Morrell

“The novel takes place in a small Wyoming community called Potter’s Field. Though normally a quiet town, Sheriff Nathan Slaughter suddenly finds himself confronted by inexplicable outbreaks of mindless violence, several bodies and the discovery of a new kind of viral infection that appears to be closely related to rabies, though it works much quicker. Along with the town coroner and an alcoholic reporter, Slaughter attempts to save the townspeople from the cruel disease, which turns its victims into raving, uncontrollable murderers.”

This was a very well-written and well-paced story. It slowly worked up to the true issue which initially did seem like simple rabies but turned out to be so much worse.

The characters are all so very, vulnerably human. It’s not just the situation they are in that draws that vulnerability out of them. It’s in their pasts, their present, and it actually helps them move foreword into their future. The thing about reading harrowing stories, people often think you have to be strong to survive, and I suppose that certainly is true, but that doesn’t mean you are not equally afraid and vulnerable in the midst of that strength. People don’t like to look at the “weak” side of themselves, but it is that “weakness” that shows you how strong you are once you overcome it or use it to your advantage. I think Sheriff Slaughter embodies that perfectly.

There are certain things that are not neatly tied up at the end, but not everything is explainable. There’s a moment perhaps around the middle of the book where Slaughter asks the medical examiner what caused this new virus, and the medical examiner talks about how not much about evolution is explainable at all, and that’s what viruses are, evolutions of cells. No one knows how it happens or why it happens, if it is a reaction to a stimulus or just randomly accuring phenomenon. There’s always mystery, even in science, so I think it’s only fitting for their to be mysteries at the end. Regardless, it was certainly an enjoyable ride.

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