Contagion is the first book in the Polaris series by Niki Block, a delightful treat for fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic tales and a perfect opening for a captivating series. The story is set in the near-future and it follows Jack Lanigan, a broken Former CIA agent. Jack works as a security guard in Polaris, an agency that operates as a state in the city of Chicago. When Jack shoots and kills the president of the agency, mistaking him for a thief, he is condemned to death without trial. He succeeds to escape and becomes the target of a well-organized manhunt led by the agency. On his path towards freedom, he discovers that the agency might be more than what it seems. In fact, Polaris is behind one of the deadliest biological weapons that could decimate humanity and Jack has unwittingly played a part in the deadly project. Working together with a small team of former agents, Jack sets out on the path to expose Polaris. Will they succeed?
The writing is cinematic, the imagery hypnotic, and the setting is a world that is well-imagined and and brilliantly executed to feel real to fans of the genre. At a time when the world is filled with manifold conspiracies surrounding the Covid-19 Pandemic, Contagion comes across as a relevant tale that explores the misuse of power and mass destruction. The narrative has a compelling premise — accidentally killing the most powerful person in a powerful agency is a strong enough premise for a riveting thriller, and Niki Block has handled it with superior skill, building a conflict that will compel the protagonist to evolve in ways readers can’t anticipate. The author’s power of storytelling shines through this opening book in the series with descriptions that are terrific and imagery that evokes scenes in a well-accomplished Motion Picture. The novel unfurls at a steady pace, allowing each character the space to grow. Readers will root for the protagonist, a man who is genuinely flawed and for the setting that offers the perfect image of a disintegrating world.