Sensational bugs-and-guts followup to Hogan's Ruby Ridgeinspired debut, The Standoff (1994). Here, mutually antagonistic medical technicians are up against a horrific virus that uses human intelligence to propagate itself. As the ethically-conflicted-lawyer thriller was to the '80s, the bug book is poised to dominate the next decade. A new crowd of take-no-prisoners antibiotic-resistant killers are nastier enemies than terrorists or drug lords because they literally hit us where we live. And Hogan's fictional Plainville virus, named for the Massachusetts town where this contagion makes its US debut, is the ghastliest yet. Set in the near future, a series of predictably preposterous, technobabble-drenched scenarios bring out the thwarted passions and psychological conflicts of the scientists stumbling for the cure. The virus, a hideously lethal variant of small pox that infects plants and animals as well as humans, is first identified in darkest Africa (where else?) by Atlanta's CDC scientists Stephen Pearse, an idealistic plodder, and his haunted, broodingly Byronic buddy, Peter Maryk, whose miraculous blood seems to resist all disease. After failing to come up with a vaccine, the two decide to ``bomb'' the stricken African village--that is, destroy everything that lives. A few years later, Maryk and Pearse have won the Nobel Prize for inventing a bestselling brew of artificial blood (making the newly formed Bureau of Disease Control the richest and most powerful medical organization in the world). After the virus crops up in Plainville, Pearse, stymied by his inability to stop the bug in Africa, is deliberately infected by a seemingly demented victim of the disease. Maryk uses his miracle blood to keep Pearse on the edge of death's door while also trying to protect the few Plainville-resistant survivors (one a vulnerable woman, naturally) from the nauseating Zero, a scheming zombie who's the virus mutated into human form. A masterfully suspenseful, character-driven potboiler paced with humor, shamelessly gratuitous destruction, and Grand Guignol gross-outs.