REVIEW: The Becoming: Outbreak by: Jessica Meigs

For a first time author this is not that bad of a novel. Don’t let that fool you, it does have some issues. Set in 2009 during an outbreak of the Regenerative Psychotic Virus (RPV) or as referred to more commonly within the story, the Michaluk Virus, the readers follow along as they are introduced to the primary characters and how they interact with each other before and during the outbreak.

Not short on gore or action, The Becoming is a bit short on details and accuracy. Given that it’s a fictional outbreak that’s not the problem. Most of the problems focus on the items the characters interact with. We are introduced to one of the main characters in the very first chapter and it’s a surface gloss so to speak. Identified as Brandt; this soldier as described, is in his BDU t-shirt, uniform pants and boots. It’s January, why is he in a t-shirt? Where’s the rest of his field gear? The sequence of events where the tension mounts ends abruptly when he plays with his ‘gun’. Some of you might know what I’m referring to already. In the military, no matter what branch, you do not have a ‘gun’ you have a weapon or a sidearm. To be blunt, he was born with a gun but issued a weapon. His ‘gun’ is apparently the issue sidearm which could have been fleshed out a little such as indicating that it was the Beretta M9. What doesn’t make sense is he racks the slide to see if he has any rounds left. By him performing this action, any round in the chamber would be ejected and as noted, that was his last round. If this was the M9 there is a loaded chamber indicator on the side that projects out a little from the frame thereby not requiring the soldier to work the slide at all to tell if his weapon is loaded. What would have worked better was to eject the magazine and count the rounds left in it. His thoughts go back to leaving his rifle behind as well as the now empty sidearm.

Wow. Research please.

Soldiers are responsible for all their equipment and would never leave any weapon behind especially one that goes bang. Out of ammo or not, they would take it with them knowing that it can be used as a bludgeon and there is always the possibility of finding ammunition. The extra weight issue is extremely nominal and would not even be considered unless it was a crew served heavy weapon. That’s why there are holsters and slings.

Then we move onto the carrying of a boot knife. The concept of someone doing this is really cool.

If you’re in a Hollywood B movie that goes direct to video.

What looks good in a film should always make one scratch their head in wonder and realize that special effects work really well in the fantasy land of cinema but have no place in the real world. What would have made this scene play out smoother would have been if the knife was strapped to his calf. Way too may regulations in pretty much every single military unit and branch in regards to carrying a boot knife. As a test, put on a pair of boots similar in height to combat boots, blouse your pants into them then tuck a simple butter knife into one of those boots. Now walk around the house and describe how annoying that rubbing would be against your leg and ankle. Get the idea?

Moving on, the president has a conference with the Health and Human Services secretary about the infection. That conversation made me scratch my head a little and ask why HHS of all the departments to talk to about this? HHS is more of a regulatory agency not one that can respond to epidemics, pandemics or viral outbreaks. They are more known for the HIPAA regulations. What is the purpose of the CDC? Why not DHS who could deploy FEMA as that agency now is in charge of FEMA? Talking to the HHS secretary about an infection is like talking to Treasury about a plane crash. Within that dialogue and poorly researched aspect, the reader finds out that a lieutenant was placed in charge of something as important as the quarantine in Atlanta. Again, I scratch my head and wonder why the lowest ranking, least respected of the officer corps would be given that much responsibility without any oversight from a superior officer. Was there such a huge RIF that there weren’t any colonels, majors or captains available? What unit was this lieutenant part of? A National Guard unit specializing in NBC/CBR/WMD? Did he have some special background that made him vital to that operation? Research would have really made that entire chapter more believable.

The female lead character, Cade, is quite an interesting creation. She is introduced to us as the neighbor to Ethan and Ann Bennett. Here is where it gets a little strange and convoluted. Ann, Ethan’s wife is a nurse who is called in to the hospital to help with the overflow of cases, yet Ethan, a police officer is not called in to assist with the riots and attacks that are happening as described on the television. Within that same sequence Cade checks a manila envelope which contains some personal identification such as her military ID card. She’s never referred to as being active duty military nor is she retired or a full time student so why does she have a military ID card?

One other poorly researched part of that section is that Cade shows Ethan her latest purchase, a Dragonuv SVD rifle and Ethan makes a comment about a permit for it. Hate to be the one to point this out; no permit is required to own a long rifle in Tennessee where the two characters reside. Later that same rifle is referred to as an assault rifle. Sorry, this is a semi-automatic Soviet scoped rifle that has only a two position selector switch, safe and fire. In the later chapters when Cade and Ethan are in the Jeep, what kind of jeep? Wrangler? Waggoneer? Grand Cherokee? Jeep Liberty? The reader never really knows but it must be large enough for Cade to have her 4+ foot long, 16”-18” wide, 8” thick rifle hardcase on the passenger footwell. It’s not a soft case as the key is mentioned several times and the average soft case does not have a lock.

Details and research.

When they finally reach Ethan’s mother house, we are reunited with Lieutenant Brandt who we met in the first chapter. This is where we get an incredible stretch of fantasy that wouldn’t have happened if cursory research had been done. Before anyone has issue with this I want to be perfectly clear I have nothing against females being in the military and feel that they can do any MOS they qualify for. Cade is revealed to have been in US Army Special Forces for 15 years, meaning that she entered in 1994 and as stated, was a sniper for 12 of those 15 years. That brings up the Dragonuv, why if she was as alleged a SF operator and SOTIC qualified would she choose a relatively difficult to locate and expensive Soviet rifle chambered in an odd caliber when an over the counter Remington 700 (M40A1 still in usage within the US Military) would suffice as ammunition would be easier to acquire?

Okay, now this will surely piss off some people but it does need to be said.

Research, those little details will bite you hard in the ass and this is why.

Women are forbidden to be in a Tier 1 combat unit. Tier 1 units are US Army Rangers, US Army Special Forces, US Navy SEALs and select units within the Marine Corps. This is not my opinion it is sadly a federal law. Women are also forbidden to attend the USMC and US Army Sniper School no matter what their MOS is or was. The only female sniper in recent history that was in the US military is Jennifer Donaldson who is or was in the Air Force in 2001and was part of the Air Force security forces. The school she attended was only 14 days and open to all genders whereas the USMC and US Army schools are 5 weeks.

That being said I’ll move on and not dwell on those issues.

Overall, The Becoming was an enjoyable read with well developed and detailed characters. The storyline was fast paced and well detailed with exception to what I noted previously. The drama, action and tension were well written, the story flow was even and smooth and it held the reader’s attention throughout the novel. Sadly, it suffered from a lack of real world research and details.

For a first novel, it was a fine entry and with some minor fine tuning, Ms. Meigs will be well on her way to becoming part of the zombie genre. Most readers looking for a good action zombie genre book will enjoy The Becoming.

Available on Amazon Kindle