Carlson applied the Page 69 Test to Plague Year and reported the following:
Page 69 of Plague Year dives into the story at the very end of Chapter 7, aboard the International Space Station, where a top scientist has been in orbit with the astronaut crew for eleven months after a nanotech plague decimated all warm-blooded life on Earth below 10,000 feet. Her name is Ruth Goldman. She’s been agitating to land their shuttle in Colorado to further her work on an ANN, an anti-nano nano, whereas Commander Ulinov has pushed to maintain the U.S./Russian presence in space as long as possible. In part, he wants to continue to provide surveillance for his countrymen in their war for the Afghanistan mountains. He also knows there may never be another launch into space in his lifetime.Readers can find the first two chapters of Plague Year at Carlson’s web site, along with tour dates, a trivia contest, and advance information on the sequel War Day, forthcoming from Ace/Penguin in Summer 2008.
Throughout their long exile within the station, Ruth and Ulinov have played at being lovers, but now they’ve become rivals, each of them trying to influence both the remainder of the crew and the government leaders on the ground. Before the tiny fragment on Page 69, Ulinov accuses her of inciting mutiny after he catches her talking with their pilot and their radioman, Gustavo. Ruth retreats to her lab module and almost immediately hears someone coming after her.
Ruth backed away. Her eyes went briefly to the viewport.
But it was Gustavo who filled her tiny space. “The radio, your friend James,” he yammered. “They said yes!”
“It worked! Everything you’ve been telling them, the ANN, getting you on the ground, they said yes!”
He stuck out one hand in congratulations and Ruth grabbed him instead, shouting right in his face. “Aaaaaaaaah!” There were no words to express the depth and complexity of her triumph.
She was going back to Earth.
There is another main storyline in Plague Year which resumes in the next chapter, following a group of survivors in California, and yet this fragment is indicative of the tension and high stakes throughout the novel. It’s the end of the world, after all. States and nations have been obliterated. The environment is crashing worldwide. Not everyone agrees on what to do next, and each decision is like stepping into a minefield.
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