Pierre Ouellette

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The Third Pandemic

A Novel

A nonhuman life form run amok energizes Ouellette’s compulsively readable second thriller.
—Publisher’s Weekly

This so close-to-realty thriller packs quite a punch and… spends a lot of time detailing and explaining the circumstances of how a global bio-disaster comes about.
—Amazon review

What’s a bit creepy is that this book is from the mid-90’s and doesn’t seem dated.
—Amazon review

A plague novel, chockablock with microbiological weirdness and humans who behave at times with about as much conscience as microbes…
—Kirkus Reviews

The first pandemic was the Black Death of the 1340s, which killed at least half of Europe’s population. The second pandemic was the Spanish Flu of 1918-20, which took fifty million lives. The Third Pandemic is the new eBook edition of Pierre Ouellette’s sci-fi thriller that traces the trajectory of a virulent new bacterial mutation that slowly spreads panic and havoc around the globe.

The deadly pathogen originates in West Africa, a unique variation of the Chlamydia Psittaci bacterium, a close cousin of bird flu. As it happens, researchers in a California biotech lab have already synthesized a similar pathogen, called Agent 57a, which now makes it possible to develop a vaccine. As the real disease spreads inexorably throughout a long incubation period, a ruthless biotech executive plans to reap a fortune by waiting for millions to die before making any vaccine available.

Learning of her boss’s treachery, research team leader Dr. Elaine Wilkes absconds with the only copy of the data and teams up with Seattle police lieutenant Philip Paris in a grueling quest to make the research public and fight the pandemic – as the world around them begins to sicken  and collapse into anarchy.

First published in 1996, The Third Pandemic was Pierre Ouellette’s second sci-fi thriller after The Deus Machine. Eerily prescient of a pandemic a quarter century later, the novel takes on a terrifying new relevance. But it’s only a story…

Author Bio

Pierre Ouellette lives in the Portland Metro Area and is the author of six novels that span a diversity of subjects and settings. He served for two decades as the creative partner in an advertising and public relations agency focused on science and technology. Prior to that he was a professional guitarist and played in numerous pop bands and jazz ensembles, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jim Pepper and David Friesen.

Also by Pierre Ouellette

The Deus Machine, The Forever Man, Bakersfield: A Crime Novel

Writing as Pierre Davis

A Breed Apart, Origin Unknown

News & Views

Author Preface to the eBook Edition

The Third Pandemic was first published in 1996 as a work of speculative fiction on the threat posed by a major pandemic. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic align with those described in the book.

Regardless of the infectious agent involved, two principal factors contribute to the severity and longevity of any disease outbreak in the modern world. The first is a long incubation period with no symptoms detected, which significantly expands opportunities to pass the germ onto others. The second is the mode of transmission, which determines how easy it is to spread the infection through airborne droplets, contaminated surfaces, etc.

Both COVID-19 and “Agent 57a” in my book present a worst-case scenario for each of these factors. They have very long incubation periods and can be transmitted relatively easily. When combined with modern air travel, they can circle the globe and proliferate with astonishing speed.

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Reviews of the First Edition

From Publishers Weekly
A nonhuman life form run amok energizes Ouellette’s compulsively readable second thriller just as it did his first, The Deus Machine. Only here the threat is viral, not virtual. Scientist Elaine Wilkes of the Webster Foundation has used a computer simulation to predict that, within 10 years, a mutated form of the common Chlamydia psittaci virus will decimate the world’s human population. The money people behind Elaine’s research want to use this information to create a vaccine they can market after a few million people die. But, in the first of the novel’s many coincidences, the mutated virus already exists. As Elaine enlists the aid of Seattle detective Philip Paris and public-health official David Muldane, the virus is poised to sweep from Africa to the rest of the world. The images Ouellette uses to describe viruses?tribes, explorers, colonists, merchants?are vivid and effective, and he lays out the complicated chain of events that created the killer disease clearly and succinctly. He stretches credulity, however, by making one of the links in that chain not only a Webster Foundation employee but one of Elaine’s co-workers. Such contrivances mar a thriller that is otherwise excellent. Ouellette does an outstanding job of creating a world in which the potential outbreak of disease terrifies nearly everyone, from a twisted serial killer whose weapon of choice is E. Coli bacteria to a jailed gangster concerned about TB. Before they finish this gripping tale, readers, too, will have become compulsive hand-washers.  Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Huge Uni Corp. has more than its share of greedy, power-hungry officers and employees. It sets out to parlay its EpiSim cytoputer system into tremendous profits by first designing an antibiotic and then withholding it until a pandemic kills off enough people to raise the drug’s price exorbitantly. Elaine Wilks, one of the company’s good guys, does the epidemiologic work until she begins to smell not a rat but a chlamydia-infected parrot. After the disease germs break out of the research labs, they hit a small island off Africa, then spread rapidly throughout the world, creating the third pandemic (after those of Justinian and the Black Death) of the title. Helped along by Barney Cox, one of the most disagreeable thugs in recent pop literature, civilization begins to unravel. The good guys–newly widowed police detective Philip Paris chief among them–finally win, and pleased readers will be watching for Ouellette’s third novel.  – William Beatty

From Kirkus Reviews
A plague novel, chockablock with microbiological weirdness and humans who behave at times with about as much conscience as microbes: a story as absorbingly ambitious as Ouellette’s debut fiction (The Deus Machine, 1994). Uni, a worldwide conglomerate of companies, is largely a relay system of computers, a global megabeast. Its main cytoputer, based in part on human cytoplasm (a far more reliable conductor of electrons than the finest wire), is more powerful than any other computer system on the planet. At Uni’s Virtual Surgery Center, Dr. Elaine Wilkes discovers that Agent 57a, a theoretical bacillus she has extrapolated from molecular descriptions of Chlamydia psittaci, has a very good chance of coming into being within the next ten years and halving the world population–though the cytoputer’s gigantic capabilities might devise an antidote within the next two years. Uni decides to keep the upcoming outbreak a secret, stockpile vast reserves of the antidote, and make a superfortune when the bug hits. Little does Uni know that the plague, incubated in and carried by parrots, pigeons, and other birds, is already afoot in Third World countries and spreading swiftly. Elaine, dismayed, steals the cytoputer’s plague disks and plans to get copies to world health organizations. Uni, however, sends its bad guys after her, and she’s arrested in Seattle. There, she falls in with Lt. Philip Paris, a detective obsessed with finding a nutcase who has been spreading E. coli in Seattle restaurants and has put Paris’s wife into a permanent coma. Paris springs Elaine and hides her on his boat in Puget Sound. While pursuits and showdowns hold the reader in a vise grip, as do descriptions of American cities in bacterial meltdown, the novel’s most awesome power comes from Ouellette’s smiling descriptions of colonies of Chlamydis psittaci on the move, pages potent enough to shock any reader into a severe health regimen. Very scary, a fabulously grisly amusement not to be read in bed.  — Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


TitleThe Third Pandemic: A Novel
List PricesUS: $9.95; UK £8.12
PublishedMay 18, 2020
Pages385 (764KB)
BISACPost-Apocalyptic Science Fiction