Thursday, May 23, 2013
By LLOYD FERRISS
It's a mystery, and an unusual one at that! Instead of one or a dozen murder victims, "Elder Virus" has tens of millions. Most of these unfortunate beings are people like your grandmother or the neighbor next door.
"Elder Virus, Prescription for Elimination." By John W. Moran (pseudonym Thomas Seniors), Create Space. 233 pages. $9.99.
In spite of its highly imaginative plot, "Elder Virus" comes across as chillingly believable. To fall under its spell, all a reader has to do is accept the author's premise of what the U.S. may be like in 2014: a country with staggering debt, clueless politicians, and an evil Nazi-like corporation waiting in the wings with a dark plan.
Here's a peek at its creepy beginning:
Tom Lyons, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, unwinds with a drink as he tells a trusted aid what's wrong with the nation. America's single-biggest problem, he says, is the elderly. Aided by a powerful and well-funded lobby, the old folks suck up health care and Social Security dollars at an alarming rate. Young people and children suffer as a consequence. But, Lyons points out, it's political suicide for any politician to take on the gray panthers.
"They now are a drain on the system and the current contributors," Lyons says, bemoaning the sad state of Social Security. "I know it, the younger electorate knows it, and they know it."
We also learn early in the book that a highly secretive, super-sized drug company has its own Machiavellian solution to the elder problem.
OX Pharmaceutical, according to the story line, was founded in Canada by Baron Ox, a German immigrant who moved there at the close of World War II. The pharmaceutical giant quickly expanded to America, and from there to every other powerful country in the world. The mega-company lured the world's best scientists and mathematicians with unbelievably high salaries, then placed its brainy recruits in secretive OX compounds. Employees who became disenchanted with OX Pharmaceutical disappeared or died.
By 2014, readers learn, Ox Pharmaceutical has beat out all other drug company competitors. It provides medications by mail order to virtually everyone in the U.S., and sponsors vaccination programs, too. Its current CEO is the Baron's steely-eyed granddaughter, who confides to a few politicians her plan to rid the U.S. of its troublesome block of old people. She promises them riches if they cooperate and, clods that they are, a few politicos sign on to the plot.
"What choice do we have?" asks one. "As politicians, we currently have no (other) fallback plan to help stabilize this country ... and this plan is doable."
There are many more twists and turns to this fascinating book. There's the epidemic outbreak complete with gruesome details. A young computer genius named Wally, employed right out of college by OX, figures out his company's diabolical plan. But it's dangerous to play hero, and he is making lots of money.
Then there's the interesting Ox plan to bring the deceased and cryogenically frozen Baron Ox back from the dead.
Although the name Thomas Seniors appears on the cover of "Elder Virus" as its author, it's a pseudonym for John "Jack" Moran of Eliot. He's a former senior vice president of a major Boston hospital who now runs Wallace Consulting LLC.
He has a PhD. He's served as adjunct professor in the graduate and undergraduate school of engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and has authored numerous articles, case studies and textbooks about health care.
It's fascinating, but "Elder Virus" isn't for the squeamish. The narrative also bogs down, especially at the book's start when the author has characters speak pages of soliloquy-like quotes to provide background for the mystery. A quicker summary would suffice, and subtract pages from a book that goes on too long.
But "Elder Virus" is still a chillingly memorable read. Readers who turn its last page will probably think, as I did, that the author's bizarre scenario -- or something like it -- could actually happen.
Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.