Set against the backdrop of WWI, the novel pits the brightest scientific minds of the day against a deadly secret. In an effort to bring an end to a war that has been raging for four years, Dr. Nicholas Wareing takes on a risky research project for the U.S. army. He struggles to unravel the mystery of influenza at a time when viruses were not understood.
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Set in a small bedroom community of New York City against the backdrop of WWI, the novel takes the reader on a journey through 1918 in search of clues that shed light on the mystery and intrigue surrounding the 1918 pandemic.
The novel opens on April Fool's Day, 1918, as the protagonist, Dr. Nicholas Wareing, struggles with his decision to take on a risky research project for the United States Army. Dr. Wareing and his team struggle with the daunting task of preparing a vaccine against influenza for the army. In the course of action, the novel highlights life on the home front under Woodrow Wilson's homeland security, the struggle to balance home life with the demands of a research job, the controversy surrounding mandatory vaccination in that era and the use of animals in medical research. The full horror of the pandemic comes to life.
The novel ends on Armistice Day, 1918, with the protagonist cursing the very peace he has so long waited for.
September 18, 1918
Camp Upton Army Training Camp
Long Island, New York
Captain Parker poised his scalpel over the young corpse and made an incision down the center of the chest. The pathologist wrested the ribcage open and exposed the chest cavity. What they saw was shocking; the cavity was filled with fluid and the lungs were blue and swollen. A tremor of fear surged through Nicholas Wareing.
Parker reached into the chest cavity and cut out the left lung. a blood froth exuded from the insubstantial tissue. A second bolt of fear struck Nicholas, this time with such force that his body jumped involuntarily. Captain Parker turned to look briefly at him and then turned back to the cadaver.
"The lungs are distended b an exudation of fluid..."" Captain Parker continued dictating, but Nicholas did not hear him. Only unthinkable thoughts and Philip's words thundered in his mind "...healthy young men dropping like flies... the whole division terrified...averaging a hundred deaths a day...the Surgeon General called for you to help find out what in hell is going on and stop it...." Flashes of grotesque tortured bodies, faces blackened beyond recognition, lying side by side with a comrade in a sea of bloodstained drab olive wool burned in his mind.
The baboon! Nicholas thought.
"What's your take on it, Nick?" the pathologist asked, but Nicholas was lost in his thoughts.
"Are you okay, Nick?" Captain Parker was looking at Nicholas with concern. "You look like you need some air."