Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: The Eleventh Plague: A Novel of Medical Terror

The Eleventh Plague: A Novel of Medical Terror
The Eleventh Plague: A Novel of Medical Terror by John S. Marr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: I read and reviewed this book in 2006 from a copy of the book I probably picked up at my favorite tobacco shop, or Borders or something. I'm just adding in some formatting.

My Reaction: I read this book just this year - several years after it was initially written. Absolutely chilling, especially when I can see that "progress" is moving faster than thought, and something like what is outlined in this book could indeed happen.

My Synopsis: A brilliant toxicologist, after being denied funding and having his life basically destroyed (and apparently going just an eensy bit crazy) has decided to reenact the Biblical plagues. He has discovered the biological causes of all of them and sets out to unleash them upon an unsuspecting public - starting with those whom he feels have destroyed him. An equally brilliant virologist is brought on board after a child becomes mysteriously ill with strange symptoms that cannot be tied to anything specific. Thus begins a deadly game of cat and mouse that leaves the bodies stacking up behind and the clock running out ahead. This story is highly suspenseful and kept me turning pages well beyond when I should have called it quits each day.

A Few Issues: However, I did find a couple teensy factual errors - because I'm a nitpicker. ONE: the author ties the tarantella in to ergotism, as people dancing madly due to the "Devil's spiders," a symptom of ergotism where one feels like one has spiders running up and down one's body. Although there is little evidence to point out the origin of the tarantella, most historians agree that is actually has something to do with an attempt to cure spider bites - the dance was an attempt to work out the venom. TWO: In one scene, the toxicologist is described as caring for his rats, some even becoming pets and having names. Then he picks one up by the scruff of its neck! Now, anyone who knows anything about rats knows that they cannot be lifted by the scruff of their necks - they do not have the right sort of build and being lifted and/or held like that can lead to damage to their throats, choking and/or death. If a scientist cared at all about his rats and had worked with them (and they were as calm and tame as described in that scene), he would only need to reach in and scoop them up by putting his hand under their torso and lifting them out by supporting their belly. That is the proper way to lift a rat.

My Recommendation: But, outside of that - everyone should read this book, think carefully about it - and be afraid. Be VERY AFRAID.

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