Contagion is the third book in the “Toxic City” series that began with London Eye and continued with Reaper’s Legacy.
Two years earlier, a devastating event left London a toxic wasteland. The outside world believes that London is empty save for the corpses of the thousands who died instantly. but Jack and his friends Sparky, Jenna, and Lucy-Anne found out in the first book that that was a lie. There are survivors in London, and they have mutated in many ways and with many astonishing super-powers
It is an incredibly violent and vicious place where survival is unlikely. But the teens have reasons to want to be there and Jack has super powers of his own. And now things have intensified even more. Jack and his friends have only 17 hours to save London and themselves before a nuclear bomb destroys everything. So not only do they have to elude the merciless Choppers who patrol the city and the Reapers who use other people and creatures for their own sport along with the once-human creatures who just want to eat them, but they have to do it under the threat of total destruction, and they have to make the choice to stay and save the city or use Jack’s powers to leave the city to its fate and save themselves.
Tim Lebbon has done an amazing job in this series and particularly in this book of creating a completely horrifying and yet believable toxic London and creatures that are fantastic and yet totally acceptable within the premise of the story. The central question of this book is whether having fantastic power and amazing abilities is a good thing or a bad thing. Obviously many of the creatures use their powers to do very bad things. Is it possible for Jack to use them only for good? Where is the line between good and bad? And if he can share his powers with his friends, should he?
The book keeps your attention riveted to the plot with no lull in the action and becomes, ultimately, not only a story about survival in post-apocalyptic circumstances but also a story about the strength of the bond that can be formed between friends.
This is dark fantasy at its best, but it is definitely for mature teens. Parents who want to buy it for young adult readers need to be aware that there is a lot of death and dismemberment in this story. But for adults and older teens the entire ‘Toxic City” series is exciting and engrossing, high-quality reading. Contagion ends it on as strong a note as it began.