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The Fervor


The Fervor

Alma Katsu’s THE HUNGER, which is about the infamous Donner Party and their survival during a tough winter, was one of the most nightmare-inducing novels of the last decade. Now, with the release of THE FERVOR, Katsu has given us not only another clever work of horror/historical fiction that is extremely relevant to our current times, but also the most personal book of her career.

It is always best to write what you know, and as the daughter of a Japanese woman, Katsu decided that now was the right time to honor her own family history. She does this by shedding light on one of the darkest times in American history: the internment of Japanese and other Asian-American citizens on U.S. soil during World War II. Knowing that this is an Alma Katsu novel, we anticipate a supernatural spin to these events --- and she does not disappoint. Throughout THE FERVOR, we see frequent references to a journal from 1927 that belonged to a man named Wasaburo Oishi. Without giving away too much, all I will say is that you need to read these passages carefully. They are very telling with the action that will transpire in the book, which is set in 1944.

"THE FERVOR is so well plotted that the inevitable meeting of all these characters I have covered in this review will take place --- and, believe me, it is worth the wait."

The first person we meet is Pastor Archie Mitchell, who is on a friendly hiking/mountain-climbing expedition on Gearhart Mountain outside of Bly, Oregon, with his wife and a handful of children they brought with them. Regrettably, this field trip will end in horror and disaster as it seems that the mountain erupts in fire, burning the group with a pain never felt before. Archie survives and just remembers what looked like a translucent spider falling on him from the sky. The rest of the ordeal was like stepping into the pits of hell.

Our next stop is Camp Minidoka, Idaho, where Meiko Briggs and her young daughter, Aiko, have been held captive since Japan attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. What makes it so ironic for them is that Meiko’s husband is off fighting for the U.S. in the midst of WWII. Meiko will do anything to protect Aiko from the nightmare existence they are currently living. But then comes the day that a strange army truck shows up at their camp right around the time that people are getting terribly ill with something that seems virulent. Meiko is intelligent enough to know that the presence of this vehicle is not good. Unfortunately, her fears are confirmed when the gates to the camp are reinforced all around with chains and large padlocks to keep them in.

In Ogallala, Nebraska, small-town journalist Fran Gurstwold is trying to make a name for herself by landing a big story during wartime while being stuck at home in middle America. It doesn’t help that she’s having an affair with her editor, which is soon to be uncovered by his untrusting wife. Fran will then be on her own, following a story that she nosed out herself. It involves the U.S. Army, the FBI, mysterious burnings and alleged attacks against U.S. citizens by the Japanese, and reports of strange parachutes carrying incendiary devices that are causing massive damage and carnage.

When Meiko becomes ill with whatever is traveling through the camp, Aiko is left alone to ponder why. She knows that the only reason they are there is because her mother was born in Japan, and they are probably thought of as spies. However, even as Aiko is forced to leave the camp when reports of her mother’s death is presented to her, she knows that she is not being told the whole truth. These two women are strong and special, and their story is far from over.

Archie, who is still mourning his wife’s death, is invited to join a group of men from his parish, all of whom have radical ideas about the Japanese and the recent fire attacks in the area. They believe in the internment camps and even want to militarize more against anyone who sympathizes with those who do not look “American” to them. They plan to make it their mission to find the spies and softhearted liberals who are taking down their country from within, and they need Archie’s help to make that happen.

THE FERVOR is so well plotted that the inevitable meeting of all these characters I have covered in this review will take place --- and, believe me, it is worth the wait. You may have noticed that I have veered away from doing any sort of deep dive into the story’s supernatural element. It is so brilliantly conceived that I want every reader out there to find and enjoy it as I did. Keep in mind that the word “fervor,” not to be confused with “furor,” means intense burning. This book brings the heat on nearly every page, and I cannot wait to see what historical moment Alma Katsu chooses to focus on for her next eye-opening novel.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 29, 2022

The Fervor
by Alma Katsu