Biological Thrillers: A Proposed Canon from Author Chris Holm

Biological Thrillers_A Proposed Canon from Author Chris HolmAs a former scientist, a lifelong thriller fan, and the author of Child Zero—which takes place in a world reeling from the collapse of the antibiotic era—I’ve spent more time reading, writing, and thinking about biological thrillers than the average bear. To that end, I offer up my proposed canon for the subgenre, whose roots extend far deeper than you might imagine.

First, a disclaimer. When constructing a list like this, one is forced to make some difficult decisions. H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, despite its microbial deus ex machina, didn’t make the cut, because it’s primarily an alien invasion story. Neither did Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, since its “pandemic” exists largely to give the vampire tale a patina of verisimilitude. That said, I’m a huge fan of both.

You’ll also note that I’ve included nothing released after 2014. That’s because I started working on Child Zero in 2016, at which point I began avoiding similar works, for fear of unintended influence. Now that Child Zero’s in the can, I’ve got some reading to catch up on—most notably Lawrence Wright’s acclaimed The End of October, to which Child Zero was favorably compared by Publishers Weekly. Now, caveats dispensed, let’s get to the list!


About the Author

Chris Holm is the author of the cross-genre Collector trilogy, which recasts the battle between heaven and hell as old-fashioned crime pulp; the Michael Hendricks thrillers, which feature a hitman who only kills other hitmen; thirty-odd short stories that run the gamut from crime to horror to science fiction; and the scientific thriller Child Zero. He’s also a former molecular biologist with a US patent to his name. Chris’ work has been selected for The Best American Mystery Stories, named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and won a number of awards, including the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Novel. He lives in Portland, Maine.