THE THIRD PANDEMIC by Pierre Ouellette


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 A plague novel, chockablock with microbiological weirdness and humans who behave at times with about as much conscience as microbes: a story as absorbingly ambitious as Ouellette's debut fiction (The Deus Machine, 1994). Uni, a worldwide conglomerate of companies, is largely a relay system of computers, a global megabeast. Its main cytoputer, based in part on human cytoplasm (a far more reliable conductor of electrons than the finest wire), is more powerful than any other computer system on the planet. At Uni's Virtual Surgery Center, Dr. Elaine Wilkes discovers that Agent 57a, a theoretical bacillus she has extrapolated from molecular descriptions of Chlamydia psittaci, has a very good chance of coming into being within the next ten years and halving the world population--though the cytoputer's gigantic capabilities might devise an antidote within the next two years. Uni decides to keep the upcoming outbreak a secret, stockpile vast reserves of the antidote, and make a superfortune when the bug hits. Little does Uni know that the plague, incubated in and carried by parrots, pigeons, and other birds, is already afoot in Third World countries and spreading swiftly. Elaine, dismayed, steals the cytoputer's plague disks and plans to get copies to world health organizations. Uni, however, sends its bad guys after her, and she's arrested in Seattle. There, she falls in with Lt. Philip Paris, a detective obsessed with finding a nutcase who has been spreading E. coli in Seattle restaurants and has put Paris's wife into a permanent coma. Paris springs Elaine and hides her on his boat in Puget Sound. While pursuits and showdowns hold the reader in a vise grip, as do descriptions of American cities in bacterial meltdown, the novel's most awesome power comes from Ouellette's smiling descriptions of colonies of Chlamydis psittaci on the move, pages potent enough to shock any reader into a severe health regimen. Very scary, a fabulously grisly amusement not to be read in bed. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-671-52534-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996