Madness - book one of the Madness Chronicles
Ted and TJ Williams almost miss their transatlantic cruise due to a volcanic eruption and the resulting impact on air travel throughout Europe. As they adapt their travel plans to reach their ship on time there are a number of curious events going on around them. First there is a dog attack that occurs when they are picking up their rental car, which is particularly impactful to TJ who was traumatized by a dog attack in her past. Then there is an aggressive flock of birds that kills an elderly couple and finally as they board their cruise ship there is a pack of rats that terrorizes the port and causes the massive ship to set off early without the full complement of passengers and crew. At this point Ted starts to piece together the relationship between the volcanic eruption and the animal behavior and he thinks that sailing across the Atlantic might have saved them from a real disaster until the news starts coming in about volcanoes erupting all around the world.
Once some of the science behind the premise is offered up it becomes a decent backdrop for an apocalyptic tale. A cruise ship is also a potential terrifying setting for an outbreak of any kind and the fact there are animals on board this ship turns it into a microcosm of what is happening in the rest of the world. Throw in a tsunami caused by one of the volcanic eruptions and the rapid series of events happening aboard the ship become quite engrossing, but unfortunately there are also some questionable plot points and characters that hold this one back. One of them being that Ted Williams just happens to be an author who has written an apocalyptic story where the animals became aggressive and that fact thrusts him into the role of being positioned aboard the ship as an expert on what is actually going on. That's a bit gimmicky and when you combine it with some of the other cliched characters on board you quickly realize that it is the overall story that keeps this one interesting, moreso than the characters, which is a bit of a shame.
This short book manages to move along quickly at times but it does have some uneven pacing and ultimately it leaves things hanging in the end. Despite the drawbacks mentioned there is enough promise in the main apocalyptic story line for me to keep moving forward in the series to find out what happens next aboard the Intrepid, the happiest ship on the sea. Gary Tiedemann narrates the audiobook version and he does an excellent job providing unique voices to the many characters.