Blood Artists: A Novel

Blood Artists: A Novel

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by Chuck Hogan

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It first appears in Africa—hideous and unstoppable—an all-consuming terror unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Two years later, it resurfaces to feed on the residents of a small New England town. Within days, only a handful survive—including one young woman whose blood is the serum of



It first appears in Africa—hideous and unstoppable—an all-consuming terror unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Two years later, it resurfaces to feed on the residents of a small New England town. Within days, only a handful survive—including one young woman whose blood is the serum of life—miraculously pared to bear witness to the plague's terrible wrath.

Not even he dreaded Ebola possesses the apocalyptic power of this loathsome scrounge that devastates the flesh and the soul. Two brilliant scientists—now bitter rivals—contained it once using the most extreme methods. But thee virus that has reemerged is a thousand times stronger. . .and it is changing Noone is safe from the contagion that devours but is never sated, from the pestilence that walks like a man.

Woe to the Earth. The Zero hour has come.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his 1995 debut novel, The Standoff, Hogan proved himself expert at the political-action thriller. One wonders why, then, he has followed up with a speculative medical thrillermuch less one that takes place nearly 20 years from now, that features such improbabilities as a virus that "has taken human form" and that unfolds via a narrative that shuttles awkwardly between first-person and third. The blood artists are Centers for Disease Control virologists Peter Maryk and Stephen Pearse (the opening narrator), who, in 2010, are working to develop a blood substitute enhanced by elements from Maryk's freakishly inviolable immune system. Together, they travel to Africa to investigate an unknown virus that devastates a remote outpost until Maryk, who's as coldhearted as Pearse is warm, orders a blanket bombing of the area. The story then jumps to 2016, as the pair receive a Nobel for the blood substitute. Their triumph is short-lived, however. The virus resurfaces in South Carolina, infecting Pearse. With his colleague dying, Maryk takes center stage as the third-person narration (interrupted by Pearse's fevered reflections) traces his struggle against the virus, which, having survived Africa due to an error by Pearse, is being deliberately spread by "a man colonized by an iatrogenic mutation of an immunopathic retrovirus. A humanized virus vector posed to infect the world." That man-virus is also posed to murder a woman whose blood may prove key to saving humanity from viral extinction. There's much to admire here: full-blooded (so to speak) characters, resonant prose, a scattering of crackling action sequences and an abiding and affecting sense of melancholy. The lack of a properly sympathetic hero, though, and muddled structure and plotting, place what should have been a robust thriller into the intensive care ward.
Library Journal
It is 2016, and the U.S. surgeon general, Stephen Pearse, has been awarded the Nobel prize for his development of PEAMAR 23synthetic blood. His former mecial partner, Peter Maryk, has gone from medical research into the world of virus detecting. Stephen returns in glory from Sweden and, while touring virus wards, is stricken by a deadly virus in a moment of carelessness, becoming a frail, dying man. Enter renegade Peter to search down the source of the virus, which, when airborne, can kill thousands within hours. Peter saw the beginnings of this virus years before in Africa while he was still working with Stephen, but they assumed that they had taken steps to contain it. Yet outbreaks have occurred in several places in the United States since then, beginning in the little Massachusetts town of Plainville, where almost everyone died and there's also a virus carrier on the loose. Hogan (The Standoff, Doubleday, 1994) has created a well-paced medical thriller with interesting characters and a believable story line that even has a hint of romance. Despite his disclaimer of medical knowledge, he has produced a work that will appeal to medical thriller fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/97.]Alice DiNizo, Raritan P.L., N.J.
Don D'Ammassa
New plagues have been popular themes both within the science fiction genre and in recent thrillers. This interesting, gripping new novel is a bit of both...The novel is very rapidly paced and intelligently plotted and executed.
Science Fiction Chronicle
Kirkus Reviews
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 useshis 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.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Peter left to investigate and later returned to lead me out across the grass bridge, along a macheted path to a high spot outside the camp. It was a ridge overlooking the jungle terrain rolling out to the west. The largest of a thick grove of ancient black trees there had been ravaged, the bottom meter of trunk bark was rent to the bare wood and scored with blood and bits of greenish-gray fur. A green monkey lay dead atop a bed of shavings at its roots. Its fur was burst with pustules, and black, blood-sodden eyes stared out of its small, drawn, side-turned face. One long arm lay across its belly, the leathery black fingers of both forepaws broken and bloodied. A few paces away, a baboon lay ripped to shreds. The infected monkey had savaged the larger animal before turning its attack upon the tree trunk, and then bled to death from its subsequent injuries.

"My God," I said.

Peter opened up the disinfectant pack he had brought along and uncapped a gallon bottle of industrial bleach. He began sloshing it on the monkey carcass.

"A quarter mile outside camp," he said, dousing the tree wound. "The virus is making its move.

Peter often spoke of viruses as though they had motives, as though they were forward-thinking, free-will life forms with plans and hopes for a deviant future.

"Flies are already visiting the kill," he continued. "Whether arthropods can vector this is anybody's guess, but we have to assume for the purposes of containment that they can. It's starting to break."

I looked out over the ridge into the virgin land below. The camp river continued there, a sparkling blue stripe, eventually pooling into a soft clearing that floated hazily, like a mirage, in the emeralddistance. Birds arced in slow, careless circles over pink Flamingos high-stepping in the shallows.

"We can't quarantine the entire jungle," I said.

Peter nodded his agreement. "That is exactly what I told Krebs."

I turned back and took a step toward him, before stopping. Dr. Martin Krebs was the director of the CDC. "When did you —"

"Earlier today. Reached him in Washington. I told him what we had. It's over, Stephen. We're out of here in four hours."

The caustic smell of the bleach just then began drifting into my suit hood. "What do you mean?" I said. "These people."

"Are dying." His voice was flat, yet urgent as always. "The relief effort has failed. Fifteen minutes after we're airborne, air force jets will fly in and take out everything within five square kilometers."

"Jets?" I moved closer toward him in my suit, as though running underwater. "The Congo government would never allow—"

"The prime minister and the president have already been briefed on the outbreak. They signed off on anything that would avoid the panic of an Ebola-like winter."

"But that kind of disruption would whack out the cave's ecology. We'd only be escalating it."

Peter calmly shook his head. "A few strategic strikes on the top of the rise to reseal the cave for good. The rest, a surface exfoliation. Plants, bugs, animals: every living thing."

"But the camp people. The asymptomatics. How do you propose evacuating them?"

Peter moved on to the baboon, bleach glugging out of the upturned bottle.

In the heat and sweat of my contact suit, I felt a bracing chill.

"This is the hottest thing we've ever seen, Stephen. You know that. It's only a matter of time before someone slips up and draws a contamination. This bug could burn through every living thing on this planet if it gets out. That cave is simply too hot to preserve. It is the tumor of the world, never meant to be found. So we bury it. We seal it back up, and work with the samples we have."

"And the asymptomatics?"

He looked at me over his half mask. "You'd bring them back into the U.S.?"

"Murder," I said. "Don't pretend this is humane. It's preemptive, and misguided, and premature. Murder."

"Our job is to protect humans as a species from an extinction event such as this."

"By slaughtering a few? Offering up the remaining healthy ones as sacrifices to the viral god?" I battled to control my breathing. "Going to Krebs without me. Without even consulting me." Peter's betrayal shocked me most off all.

"I knew what your position would be."

"And so you ignored it? Went around me? Never even considered that you might be wrong and I right?"

"If you have an alternate plan," he said, shaking out the last drops of bleach over the dead baboon, "now is the time."

"We wait."

"We can't wait."

"Let it run its course. Let it burn out. For God's sake, Peter."

He sounded strangely disappointed in me. "This is Andromeda, Stephen. The Holocaust paradigm: bombing the rail yards to cut the trans-port lines, martyring those already in the cattle cars to the millions who would die in the gas chambers. That's what disease control is all about: trading the dead for the living. This is no laboratory, Stephen. Categorical imperatives are fine; it's all right to be contemplative on the front porch some warm summer evenings. We're facing world genocide here. Krebs understands that. I am sorry these people are sick. But I am even sorrier they are contagious. De mortuis nil nisi bonum." Of the dead say nothing but good.

I watched him recapping his bottle of bleach. "What's happening to you?"

"You can't save everyone, Stephen. Not even you. Mercy was right enough for the girl."

It was all I could do to keep from ripping off my suit, as though only my self-destruction would change his mind. "She was dying."

He was kneeling before me now, repacking his disinfectant kit. "If we don't stop it here, cauterize it, now, it's going to slip out of this jungle and march across this continent and the planet."

I saw it all then, the bulletining of Special Pathogens black-baggers, his reluctance to issue an international alert. "You were going to bury this from the beginning."

"No," he said. "Not from the beginning. But early on."

"I'm calling Krebs."

"I told him to expect you. But the jets won't be called back. The uranium mine is in violation of international treaties and the Department of Defense will strike whether we remain here or not."

"Peter," I said. "Listen to me. Burning these people alive"

He snapped the kit shut and stood. "We don't have the supplies to euthanatize everyone. But if you have a favorite or two, be my guest."

He started away with his plastic kit like a salesman moving on to his next call, leaving me standing with the two animal carcasses. Vapor waves of bleach, formerly the essence of cleanliness, of household chores and gym socks in the wash, of pale grout and a gleaming bathroom floor now and forever the effluvium of disease containment, of ablution.

At once I started after him. The girl with the vitiligo was watching for me at the huts, but I brushed past her grabbing arms and searched the camp for Peter. I passed the trauma area and a patient cried out, and I stopped only long enough to treat him. But soon there were others calling for my attention, more than the nurses could handle. After a while I stopped looking over his shoulder. I began treating the doomed as fast as I could.

Copyright ) 1998 by Chuck Hogan

Meet the Author

Chuck Hogan is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Devils in Exile and Prince of Thieves, which won the 2005 Hammett Award , was called one of the ten best novels of the year by Stephen King, and was the basis of the motion picture The Town.

Chuck Hogan es autor de varias aclamadas novelas, entre las cuales se encuentra Prince of Thieves que ganó el Hammett Award 2005 y que fue considerada una de las diez mejores novelas del año por Stephen King.

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Blood Artists 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a classic Sci-Fi biological outbreak story. Dr. Peter Maryk, who has a superhuman immune system, and Dr. Stephen Pearse are rivals as well as partners in developing a synthetic human blood. They are called to the Congo to help with what appears to be a smallpox outbreak. It turns out to be a new virus that is extremely lethal. This action packed thriller takes place in the near future (2010-2016) and is not beyond believability. Well worth the read! I happened to listen to the audio version - Gordon Thomson is excellent in his interpretation. I will be picking up the book to read it - I am sure I missed some nuances while driving on the PA Turnpike!