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Virus Thirteen    by Joshua Alan Parry order for
Virus Thirteen
by Joshua Alan Parry
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2013 (2013)
Paperback, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Joshua Alan Parry's debut novel, Virus Thirteen, is a near future thriller that incorporates draconian solutions to current world overpopulation and health cost problems.

Super-scientists James and Linda Logan are key employees of GeneFirm, Inc., a world biotech leader (famous for its creation of a cancer proof human genotype). In fact, the book opens on their announcement at a conference of their discovery of a cure for cancer - the cancer-proof genetic engineering has proved expensive. But just as they make their announcement, James collapses and is shortly afterwards operated on for a brain tumor!

After a surprisingly fast recovery, they're both back at GeneFirm, with a new crisis developing fast - a bioterrorist attack involving a superflu that begins to kill millions. Linda is quickly isolated with a research team in an underground lab to seek a cure, while James starts investigating his own situation - how did he develop cancer when he supposedly had the cancer-proof genetic engineering?

While all this develops, the author introduces readers to agents of Homeland Health Care, rounding up individuals who do not look after their health properly (and so cost the government too much in terms of care), to participate in a rigorous and ruthless health retreat. One of these poor souls is James' cousin. All of this comes together in a major conspiracy novel filled with blood, gore and action a plenty.

Tthe characters are rather cardboard and the end-justifies-means plot strains credibility more than the norm for the genre. So read Virus Thirteen mainly for its consideration of the tradeoff between overpopulation and disease cures that lead to longer life, as well as some unusual ideas on possible near future directions in health care.

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