Your faithful correspondent has been waylaid by a unbelievably persistent sinus infection, likely made worse by my decision to not seek medical attention until four days into this thing. Despite the sneezing, coughing and more, the show must go on here at Unbound Worlds, but with a head full of foulness it’s only natural that my thoughts turn toward disease. With that in mind, I present five of the worst plagues from science fiction and horror.
1) The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain): One of Crichton’s earliest and best technothrillers follow a team of scientists attempting to stop an extraterrestrial infection before it ends all life on Earth. The Andromeda Strain arrived on Earth by way of a crashed satellite and the outbreak kills almost every person in an entire Arizona town before the government even has boots on the ground. The infection causes near-instantaneous blood clotting and has a fatality rate of almost 100 percent. As if that’s not bad enough, it constantly mutates, making a cure nearly impossible.
2) Captain Trips, (Stephen King, The Stand): Also known as “the Super Flu”, Captain Trips is a weaponized form of influenza that makes the 1918 pandemic look like an outbreak of sniffles at a primary school. A worldwide pandemic is unleashed when a infected soldier flees quarantine, resulting in the death of 99.4 percent of the world’s population. Chaos and violence ensues, much of it in the wake of a nasty character named Randall Flagg, AKA “The Walkin’ Dude”, who may be Satan himself. Yep, Captain Trips is the Flu from Hell.
3) Hate, (David Moody, Hater): Seemingly normal people are suddenly transformed into homicidal maniacs in David Moody’s 2006 novel Hater. No one knows how it is spread or why only some people develop the condition, but as society collapses into a bloodbath of epidemic proportions, the survivors isolate themselves, unable to trust even their family or closest friends. This isn’t a zombie virus, either: The infected are alive and perfectly reasonable…in their desire to kill. Why use your hands or teeth when you can pick up an axe?
4) Designer hemorrhagic fever, (Barth Anderson, The Patron Saint of Plagues): It’s 2060, and America is no longer a superpower thanks to a series of agricultural plagues that all but destroyed the nation’s food supply. The world’s most powerful nation is Mexico, thanks to an ample food supply, the best in cutting edge cybertechnology and the rule of a charismatic but dangerous despot. Impoverished and fractured, what’s left of the US government must marshal its resources when a mysterious hemorrhagic fever breaks out on the border. Brilliant virologist Henry David Stark is the best in his field, but his considerable abilities will be challenged when he uncovers the horrible truth – and political motives – behind the plague.
5) Acinetobacter Baumanii, (James M. Tabor, The Deep Zone): Wounded soldiers are coming down with a horrible new antibiotic-resistant illness, one that begins with flu-like symptoms and ends with the internal bleeding and pus-filled, weeping sores. When nothing in the government’s medical arsenal can stop the patients from dying, disgraced scientist Hallie Leland is pulled in to lead an expedition into an enormous cave system in search of “moon milk”: A fungal slime that could be used to develop a treatment. The clock is ticking as Leland and her colleagues struggle to overcome the cave’s challenges to claim their prize.
Well, these are only my five picks. They’re in no particular order and were chosen rom five of my favorite plague-themed novels. I know you guys can think of some others. What are a few I missed?