Paperback: 440 pages
Publisher: Independently published (February 7, 2018)
Bitten is one of those novels that’s very difficult to try to pigeonhole. Yes, it’s dystopian in that it’s set in the future when the consequences of global warming are affecting the earth. But much of the story has absolutely nothing to do with any normal science fiction trope. True, many passages can be best classified as horror. Others are best defined as belonging to the thriller genre. In short, many of the plot lines take us to places and down roads no reader could predict. I think that’s a good thing.
One major character is ecologist Claudia Mattioli, one of the world’s most important experts on mosquitoes. That’s a key role to play as climate change has produced a horrifying increase in the size and potency of all species of mosquitoes. Bearing all manner of deadly and incapacitating diseases, they’re attacking humans and animals in swarms that are eating up flesh in major cities all over Italy. At first, Claudia’s job is to gather samples of the types of mosquitoes in various regions before she’s asked to come up with a plan to eradicate them. Problem: Claudia doesn’t think humans should declare war on mosquitoes but rather find a way to live with them.
Claudia’s much older lover is New York publisher and editor Scott Lee who wants to make a deal to produce high-quality art books of Italian painters. As author Moore spent twenty-five years as a publisher and considering many of the pleasures Lee enjoys in Bitten, it’s hard not to wonder if Lee’s experiences are a bit of wish-fulfillment for his creator. Whatever the case, Lee is on hand with Claudia threw a series of shocking adventures, including a human-set fire that destroys much of Venice. That’s before Lee is tempted to go over to the dark side by the alluring femme fatale, Francesca Maruichi.
A third important player is Lee’s friend, Lawrence Spencer, an Italian intelligence officer using the cover of being an art expert. He’s called on by the Mafia in Florence to certify whether or not a certain painting reputedly by Raphael is genuine or not. After all, the criminals are very familiar with the black market, arms smuggling, sales of plutonium to Iran, but not art reportedly stolen in World War II by the Russians. An ongoing mystery involves those who have the painting wanting to set up a silent auction without anyone actually seeing the merchandise before the stolen art is stolen again.
So what has all this intrigue in the art world have to do with climate change and the theme Moore tells us is the important purpose of his book, that of demonstrating how nature will have revenge on humanity in response to thousands of years of poor stewardship of the planet? Are mosquito swarms but the opening shots of Mother Nature giving humanity fair warning of what she can do?
I can’t answer that. I can say I was continually kept interested in the various plot twists and turns because of the engaging, well-sketched characters, the vividly described settings, and the surprises at the end of many of the passages. That sometimes-kinky wish fulfillment Scott, Claudia, and Francesca enjoy is a bonus for, at least, male readers until the kinkiness goes a bit over the edge. One genre Bitten doesn’t fit in is YA.
In addition, Moore adds verisimilitude with an obvious familiarity with colorful Italian cities, the process of authenticating Renaissance paintings, and gives his science credibility by occasionally referring us to the two non-fiction appendices at the end. Bitten is a book for readers who like the unexpected and who don’t need their stories defined by a particular genre. It’s a page-turner with Moore keeping reader interest with a fast pace and all the ingredients spelled out above.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on March 1, 2018: