plague
The idea was good.
The outcome, not so much.
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“We produce about 100 metric tons per year of weaponized variola virus. Smallpox.” Uri Sherbokov – designated escort, minder, keeper – Plague

“I studied at Emory University in America.” – Alnour Barashi – Terrorist – Plague

“We had begun working on the biological warfare issue in 1993, after the World Trade Center bombing made it clear that terrorism could strike at home, and a defector from Russia had told us that his country had huge stocks of anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, and other pathogens, and had continued to produce them even after the demise of the Soviet Union.”– Bill Clinton

Plague
[pleyg] noun
1. an epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence.
2. an infectious, epidemic disease caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis,  characterized by fever, chills, and prostration, transmitted to humans from rats by means of the bites of fleas. Compare bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, septicemic plague.
3. any widespread affliction, calamity, or evil, especially one regarded as a direct punishment by God: a plague of war and desolation. -Websters Merriam Dictionary 2013

I am very much of two minds about this book, and for two very different reasons. I put a great deal of thought into my review after reading, and still am torn.

To get this out of the way, I am not fond of the writing style. The exposition is thin, the characters are more ‘caricatures’ and it could stand a good editor who can help the writer more fully realize his plotting and characterizations.

With that out of the way, let’s talk terrorism, level-4 containment, and the ease of foreign terrorists gaining use of facilities. We know other countries are creating biological weapons, as are we. “An offensive biological program was begun in 1942 under the direction of a civilian agency, the War Reserve Service (WRS). The Army Chemical Warfare Service was given responsibility and oversight for the effort. The mounting threat of the German buzz bombs that were raining on England from launching sites on the Continent during 1943 spurred the urgency of BW (biological warfare) defense because it was thought that these high-explosive rockets might easily be converted into efficient weapons for massive BW attacks.”(Weapons of Mass Destruction: http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/bw.htm)

Things haven’t slowed down since 1942, and in some countries, especially Middle Eastern and the former Soviet states, it has increase dramatically. Given the state of world terrorism, it is not if, but when we will have to face yet another bioterror attack, such as the anthrax attacks of 2001. How it happens, and what the outcome is up in the air, but it will happen, and it will be horrific.

Bernard’s “Plague” addresses this issue, given a situation where the terrorist is an employee of a level-4 laboratory. The scenario is plausible, though some don’t seem to agree with me. Employees have the run of their labs, and can come and go at need, making it simple for them to hide what they are doing. As another reviewer said (paraphrased) “just like at Wendy’s.” There are thousands of foreigners working at highly secure facilities all around the United States, making it easy for a foreign terrorist to gain access if their cover is deep enough. Besides, we have own own, “home grown” terrorists as well who are just as dangerous, though usually on a par with high school educations rather than high-level virologists. I had no problem believing that part of the story. I could even see a foreign government being involved in the ownership of one of these facilities. Apparently, American corporations are more about the money than they are the safety of the people. But be that neither here nor there.

The writing simply wasn’t believable. Like many, I am a huge fan of the nonfiction work “The Hot Zone” and others in the vein. I adore heavily scientific works based around this theme, whether they be fiction or non-fiction. However, this one didn’t reach the level of excellence I had hoped for. If Bernard had spent more time on exposition, I might possibly have found the work more interesting. However, the characters just didn’t feel realistic. They were stilted and in at least one case, cartoonish.

While the overall idea was good, in the end, the book was simply a disappointment for me.

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