In this biological thriller of the near future, postinsurrection Mexico has undermined the superpower of the United States. But while the rivals battle over borders, a pestilence beyond politics threatens to explode into a worldwide epidemic. . . . Since the rise of the Holy Renaissance, Ascension-once known as Mexico City-has become the most populous city in the world, its citizens linked to a central government net through wetware implanted in their brains. But while their dictator grows fat with success, the masses are captivated by Sister Domenica, an insurgent nun whose weekly pirate broadcasts prophesy a wave of death. All too soon, Domenica's nightmarish prediction proves true, and Ascension's hospitals are overrun with victims of a deadly fever. As the rampant plague kills too quickly to be contained, Mexico smuggles its last hope over the violently contested border. . . . Henry David Stark is a crack virus hunter for the American Center for Disease Control and a veteran of global humanitarian efforts.
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March 27, 2006
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Excerpt from The Patron Saint of Plagues by Barth Anderson
Mottled gold on green, like the shimmer of foil or the gleam on a sheen of motor oil, the plant looked unhealthy from stalk to leaves. Systemic cell death. Vein clearing and branding, which appeared as dark varicose veins shooting across withered leaves. Classic.
"This ain't happening," Stark said.
He scanned up the row, looking for more infected spinach plants. His grandfather's method of defense against vCaMV was to change up the varieties throughout the rows, planting no two plants of the same variety within ten feet of each other, which made for jagged, uneven growth and shaggy rows. Had the method broken down here Stark could see the Bloomsdale spinaches, the Olympia, the Sailorman, de Wilde Savoy, and the Oklahoma Green, alternating through the rows. To outsiders, the seemingly haphazard plan looked like madness, but "gold mold," as the array of variants of cauliflower mosaic virus was commonly called, had never appeared here.
Adjusting his straw fedora to block the sun, Stark knelt and clipped a small leaf from the young spinach and slipped it into his field press.
"May 15," he said to the press, as it sighed nitrogen, enclosed the sample, and consulted with the NIA satellite.
A moment later, the field press confirmed the obvious. vCaMV was here, on this farm, the place he grew up.
He stood and looked across Nissevalle Valley. The greenhouses had been emptied of sprouts, and fields were planted and primed for summer storms and sun. For nearly two decades, farms from Alberta to Chihuahua had battled seasonal vCaMV outbreaks for meager yields. Gold mold was known to sweep through whole regions in a single season, like a slow-motion prairie fire. But it had never come to Nissevalle. This quop was poised for another very profitable year, and losing shares now would be a disaster. Spinach rippled with passes of May breeze, and so did the corn, low and fluttering. Field hands in hats like Stark's weaved through the young crops as tillers dogged behind, maneuvering through the tomatoes on preprogrammed weeding missions. The idyllic haze of Nissevalle Farm suddenly looked like so much rot.