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BOOK REVIEW: The Barrier by Shankari Chandran

| 29 November 2017 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Barrier by Shankari Chandran

Pan Macmillan
May 2017
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Speculative Fiction / Action / Thriller


Twenty years ago an Ebola epidemic brought the world to the edge of oblivion.

The West won the war, the East was isolated behind a wall, and a vaccine against Ebola was developed. Peace prevailed.

Now Agent Noah Williams is being sent over the barrier to investigate a rogue scientist who risks releasing another plague. But why would a once-respected academic threaten the enforced vaccination program that ensures humans are no longer an endangered species?

Hunting for answers amid shootouts, espionage and murder, Noah will have to confront a fundamental question:

In the fight for survival, can our humanity survive too?


The Barrier begins with an interesting premise, and one which is frequently discussed in our modern world. People are either pro- or anti-vaccination, and the concern usually comes down to “What else are they hiding in there?” For the most part, the concerns are about certain chemicals being included that can cause major health problems. But what if they were using these vaccines to shape the way we think, behave, and… believe?

The Faith Inhibitor. FI-85. Sometimes Noah still couldn’t believe what they had done. What his father would have thought of it. The Faith Inhibitor targeted and damaged the part of the human brain that generated faith. People stopped feeling faith. They stopped yearning for and seeking a loving, vengeful and powerful God.

What kind of resistance would arise from this particular problem? What kind of moral questions might this raise for the people in the know? How far would people go to 

These are the things Chandran sets out to explore in The Barrier, a story full of action, intrigue, and moral quandaries.


The writing here is fairly steady, though it does run into minor issues at times, and for fans of techno-thrillers this does have a lot of action, excitement, and some gorgeously gory descriptions.

He had never heard the sound of metal ripping through layers of shrivelled muscle and brittle bone. It passed through body after body, like a child’s fingers in playdough. He heard people scream in agony, the air rattle from their chests, the life rush from their wounds in a fountain of dark blood. When it was over the pieces of their bodies lay twisted, mangled and merged with the pieces of their gods.

As a non-religious reader, I did find the constant religious mentions tedious at times, but regardless of religious belief, the question here isn’t so much about religion vs. non-religion, but rather about the freedom to make such choices. And the fact that the people vaccinated against faith were from the “Eastern Alliance” where the population was largely non-white explores a kind of racism taken to the extreme, which it seems is an even more important discussion in the current political climate than it would have been, say, four years ago.

The biggest issue here was a lack of belief (as it were) in the characters. It was hard to feel a proper connection or conviction for them, and so it was difficult to really care how everything wrapped up in the end.

However, it should be taken into account that I typically don’t read a lot of action thrillers, (though I am, paradoxically, a fan of the thrill and gore one might find in zombie stories), as those I have read to this day have all proven quite light on character development and I find it hard to really care for a book when I’m not engaged by its characters.

If you’re a fan of action, thrills, espionage, and moral dilemmas, give this one a go, but if you like well fleshed-out characters with whom you can really relate, there is little here for you.




Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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