In Review: Cold Storage

A bio-thriller that has enjoyable characters fighting to save the planet from the smallest and hungriest of threats.

Cold Storage by David Koepp

Published by Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins, September 3, 2019. Hardcover of 320 pages at $27.99. Also available as an e-Book and audiobook. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: Will Staehle is the designer of this frontpiece. On a black cover, a blurb from Blake Crouch is at the top. Under that, in large embossed silver is the author’s name. In the center of the book is a spray of green originating from the left and expanding to the right. Standing before this spray is an unknown individual in a yellow Hazmat suit. In the character’s right hand is a pistol. Under this photo is the title in embossed silver. It’s a very fetching cover, though I wish the picture had been a bit larger. I didn’t see the gun until after reading several chapters. Overall grade: B+

The premise: From the back cover, “When Pentagon bioterror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, the found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction. He contained it and buried it in cold storage deep beneath a little-used military repository. Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy. Only Diaz knows how to stop it. He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards — one an ex-con, the other a single mother. Over one harrowing night, the unlikely trio must figure out how to quarantine this horror again. All they have is luck, fearlessness, and a mordant sense of humor. Will that be enough to save all of humanity?” This is a solid tease for what’s to be found within, though not enough space is given to the security guards who have a large portion of the book, if not more than Diaz, in dealing with the threat. Overall grade: A-

The characters: Roberto Diaz is an engaging character. When first seen in 1987 he’s at the top of his game at work, though he does have an eye that strays toward other women. He’s attractive, knows it, and flirts. The question is will he act if someone flirts back? When seen again in 2019 he’s supposed to be retired and is fighting those new to power in getting the job done. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep the world safe. His partner is Trini Romano. She likes Diaz, but she puts her nose where it doesn’t belong, hurting their work relationship. Like him, she is aces in the field, though her home life seems better since she’s unmarried. Appearing in 1987, Hero Martins is a microbiologist assigned to help Diaz and Romano in Australia. Her actions and thoughts are strong stuff. Teacake’s real name is Travis Meacham, but he’s only referred to by his nickname. He’s not the smartest guy in the world, even though he served two years on a submarine, but also served some time in Ellsworth Correctional. His favorite word is the F-bomb which he drops often when surprised or scared, and he’s got plenty of reason to be both. Murphy is the man currently making Teacake’s life miserable. He works at the Atchinson Storage Facility, like Teacake, but wants to loot some of the lockers. He’s trying to get Teacake to help him, but with no success. Naomi Williams is the last main character of the book. She’s a single mom that co-worker Teacake is sweet on, but she seems so much more confident than he in every possible way. When they get together they uncover something that should have remained hidden and do all that they can to survive it. Diaz, Teacake, and Williams have the most pages devoted to them and are the three strongest characters. I didn’t think I would enjoy Teacake, who’s not the most pleasant, but I grew fond of him. I liked Diaz for this straightforwardness and Williams was just a delight in every possible way for knowing things Teacake did not. I also have to give incredibly strong praise for when the story is told from the point of view of the antagonist. It was frighting and fun all at once. Overall grade: A

The settings: The setting in 1987 is the Kiwirrkurra Community, in the middle of the Gibson Desert in Western Australia. It’s a series of shacks in the middle of nowhere that’s got a piece of Skylab. It’s a fantastic setting, alien yet familiar. If the entire novel had been spent there, I would have been happy. The majority of the book is spent in 2019 at the Atchinson Storage Facility in eastern Kansas. This was once a government storage facility that’s been sold off to private owners. It’s been converted to storage for the public and it’s a maze of dark corridors and locked doors. What’s underground is a terror. I was impressed with the use of elevators, which became doorways to horrors. The settings were described well and very easy to picture. Overall grade: A+

The action: This is where the book truly excels. The action in Australia, without revealing what it specifically is, had me on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. What is found had me sweating for the characters and Page 43 is only the first major shock of the book. In Kansas the horror is intensified by the setting, the characters, and an unforgettable use of rats. Yeah, Koepp does action well. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: There’s an explosive ending with not everyone making it out alive. As with the action, I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. This was a nail biter, to be sure. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is a bio-thriller that has enjoyable characters fighting to save the planet from the smallest and hungriest of threats. The characters are engaging and the action outstanding. Sorry, Mr. Koepp, but this can’t be the last for Diaz and Romano. I need more — soon! A recommended read. Overall grade: A

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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