Verdict: THE CYGNUS VIRUS is at times an exciting, very smart, and even sometimes very funny book, never talking down to the reader and moving at a breakneck pace.
A man downloads a computer virus from another planet with a terrifying agenda of its own in this enticing and sometimes quirky sci-fi thriller.
Andron Varga is a man who just lost the love of his life to a freak accident, and, trying to do some good in this world, downloads a computer program that helps a SETI-like organization look for alien signals. Then, almost immediately, he finds one. Cygnus, a sentient computer program from a planet called Earth, has insinuated himself into Andron’s hard drive. At first, Cygnus just seems to be a really annoying roommate. But as things progress, Cygnus begins to reveal that he was once a flesh-and-blood person like Andron, living on a planet nearly identical to his, and that he wants to become a real boy again. But Cygnus is interested in more than just being corporeal again: he wants power. And so he engineers a project to clone Andron’s planet’s version of Jesus and make himself the god-king of a whole planet.
T.J. Zakreski’s THE CYGNUS VIRUS is at times a very consciously literate and literary book, drawing its inspiration from such sources as Carl Jung, the rise of Nazism, and even the Tarot deck to string together its elaborate metaphorical schema. So perhaps that’s why it’s so frustrating when this book does not seem to take itself all that seriously. This is a book that at once tries to fundamentally explore the issues of identity, consciousness, the emergence of authoritarianism, and how to cope with loss; and yet it expects the reader to go along with it as it insists that Andron lives on a near-perfect copy of Earth called Terra, and in fact that almost every habitable planet in the universe is an Earth clone; it presents such over-the-top caricatures as Reverend Thomas O’Brian, a sleazy televangelist-type with the speech pattern of Reverend Lovejoy, the sort of over-the-top religious straw man that became a cliché a while ago. In other words, for a book with such a well-thought-out structure and set of ideas, a lot of the book’s elements seem curiously half-baked or under-realized, with ineffective humor cropping up at the most inappropriate times.
Still, by the time this book morphs from an off-brand Hitchhiker’s Guide to a political thriller, the paranoid tension becomes somewhat gripping. If THE CYGNUS VIRUS doesn’t always do itself any favors with its weird sense of humor, it’s still a very exciting and suspenseful book and, even at times, a fun one, even if it has a romantic subplot which is as ridiculous as it is implausible.
THE CYGNUS VIRUS is at times an exciting, very smart, and even sometimes very funny book, never talking down to the reader and moving at a breakneck pace.