Book Reviews

Chilling Sci-fi Crystalizes Pandemic Realities

Through a well-developed array of characters, Hoppensteadt’s work brings to bear the enormous realities and emotional stages we humans go through during a crisis.

Alexandria, VA – Review: The Shelter

Publisher: Solstice Publishing

Author: Robert Hoppensteadt

by Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor

Zebra Rating: 5 Stripes

The Shelter’s ground zero is Nome, Alaska. Matt Tulugak happens upon on a long buried, once deeply frozen ritual location. The eerie site includes several woolly mammoth tusks arranged in a circle. Within the circle is a well-aged human skull. Due to the melting permafrost, there is terrific potential there for an archeological dig.

Then an accident occurs. Jack Fisher’s arm is punctured by pieces of the fossil. Unknowingly infected, Jack is patient zero. A virus is unleashed and sets out upon the world with Armageddon velocity. And from there, this page-turner accelerates.

Through a well-developed array of characters, Hoppensteadt’s work brings to bear the enormous realities and emotional stages we humans go through during a crisis. This story is chilling in light of the what we have already experienced with the current pandemic. His characters face denial, fear, carelessness, change, despair, and, in the end, redirected hope.

In a panic, friends Ed Turner and Jenna Walker recklessly board a plane, knowing each is seriously ill. They serve as the lynchpin for unchecked viral spread. Then, as the situation in Nome worsens, the calvary arrives in the form of federal government help. I could not help but reflect on President Reagan’s quip: “The scariest nine words are, I am from the government and here to help.”

Hopelessness sets in following a series of futile CDC missteps and residents realize they are on their own. And the government solution may not be what they hoped for or expected. Three courageous spirits emerge as leaders: Matt, a native Alaskan; the kind-spirited Molly Johnson; and Joey Covington, a stern military woman. This trio of differing personalities learn to trust and to rely on each other.

I asked Robert his inspiration for the book. “The idea came initially when I was reading an article about ice age viruses found in melting permafrost. None was dangerous to humans, but ancient infectious organisms frozen for thirty thousand years were viable! That sparked my imagination. First and foremost, I wanted to write good action story.”

The author has written a realistic and at times grisly tale. The Shelter is a quick and seamless read with a concrete ending. Readers experience life after normal routines are gone. What is genuinely scary is the fragility of our civilization and the liberties we enjoy.

Robert Hoppensteadt has an interesting background. He fudged his age to started working in Reno, Nevada, at fourteen, washing dishes on the late shift at a casino restaurant. He has served in the Forest Service, been a recruiter, worked in carpentry, earned a degree in Information Systems. After all that, he returned to his passion of writing full time. Robert has lived on both coasts and several places in between. He currently lives in Alexandria his wife and two seriously spoiled and obnoxious cats.

The Shelter grabs readers from the start with entirely believable events. The pages peel away as the plot line and characters converge into a chilling, plausible outcome. Hope resurges from the ashes and on the spiritual motivation of a surviving youngster, Juniper. This revitalizes the importance of and faith in human connections. A solid Zebra rating: 5 stripes.

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