Gary Glass’s Frugal Find Under Nine:
Description of The Nirvana Plague:
What if perfect peace and happiness were a contagious disease? In this fast-paced, thought-provoking thriller, a schizophrenic scientist, an ambitious Chicago psychiatrist, and a hard-driving Army colonel are at the center of a frantic international struggle between the powers of government and a mind-bending outbreak of cosmic consciousness.
A bizarre illness spreads through a Chicago psychiatric hospital. Dr Carl Marley, a bored but ambitious psychiatrist, seizes the chance to grab some attention by “discovering” the new disorder. But when an Army colonel summons him to a government-sponsored taskforce to investigate the syndrome, he learns the disease he thought he’d discovered is already so widespread in the military that it threatens to undermine the foundations of power. A high-stakes race to understand the disease takes the team from the NIH campus in Bethesda, to a war zone in the Kashmiri highlands, to a high-tech biodefense facility near Juneau, Alaska.
As the outbreak spreads around the globe and desperate governments impose increasingly severe measures to contain it, Marley begins to suspect that what is happening is not the apocalypse they fear — but something far more radical. Marley’s star patient, a brilliant but profoundly psychotic scientist named Roger Sturgeon, escapes from the facility into the city, and Marley attempts to bring him back before the government sends in troops. Only then does he learn the truth about what is happening.
Before it’s over they will all be forced to choose between the precarious comfort of the world they know and the mysterious wonder of a new reality — between their commonplace fears, ambitions, and loyalties, or the hope that lies in The Nirvana Plague.
A difficult book to put down. Your attention is grasped continually with ever growing suspense and mystery. The author captured the essence of James Michener incorporating facts into the saga; and the essence of Steven King’s art of timely and mounting suspense. And the ending – what an ending! ~ Amazon reviewer
The Nirvana Plague is a mile-a-minute race to understand and contain an outbreak of…what? Is it a virus, bioterrorism, a movement, or the next stage of human evolution? Well-drawn characters will lead you on a wild chase in a thriller based on a great what-if premise. The book is written with authority, imagination and intelligence. ~ Amazon reviewer
It has been thirty years since I read any Vonnegut, but this book reminds me of his work. It also reminds me a bit of Don Delillo’s ‘White Noise.’Gary Glass manages to create a thought-provoking, philosophical, thriller that takes place on a global scale while also focusing on a core set of characters in a very intimate way. Well done. ~ Amazon reviewer
The Nirvana Plague currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars from 9 reviews. Read the reviews here.
An excerpt from The Nirvana Plague:
It is well past blackout. Starlight silvers the empty campus. A fresh snow has fallen, and a hungry wind drives in off the lake. A lone student hurries home between the dark buildings.
From a doorway, a thin jet of breath streams out and is shredded by the wind.
She looks up.
“Wait!” comes from the doorway. The sound is raw, guttural.
She puts her head down and walks on, fast, her boots striking hard on the packed snow of the sidewalk.
He calls after her:
“Wait!” he says. “Come back!” His voice is a hiss on the air.
She looks ahead — there’s no one else around, but it’s only another block to the street. Then she hears his footsteps behind her.
He sees her look back and calls after her again, urgently, trying to keep his voice down:
“Wait! Please! I have to talk to you!”
She runs. Her boots slip, slowing her, but the unpacked snow off the sidewalk is too deep. Her backpack bounces from side to side, throwing her off balance.
“Stop!” the man calls, running after her. “Stop! For God’s sake!”
She comes to a crossing and cuts to the left — instantly realizing her mistake: she should have kept on and just outrun him. She loses her footing, her boot slides under her, and she goes down hard on her side. Her parka cushions the blow a little, but the glazed snow is almost as hard as the concrete under it, and she catches her arm under her weight, wrenching the elbow.
Before she can get to her knees, he’s on her. She wriggles and kicks, but he straddles her hips and pins her down. He grabs her by the shoulders and thrusts his face toward hers. His short hair and short beard are grizzled, his lips pallid, his eyes bright, glassy, and crazed.
“Listen to me!” he hisses, bending over her. “Listen! I’m trying to warn you! They’re coming here! They’re coming—”
He looks suddenly confused.
The girl screams, as loud as she can, screams with her whole body.
The man is startled and claps his bare hand over her mouth.
“No! No! They’ll hear you! That’s how they—”
The girl jerks her head back and forth. His hand comes loose — she catches it in her mouth and bites it, hard.
He stifles a yelp of pain: “Ahhh!”
He gets his hand free and jams it under his arm, grimacing.
“No!” he says. “Don’t! You don’t understand!”
The girl screams again, and twists her body violently.
The man loses his balance, falls sideways. He puts out his hand to catch himself, the hand she’s just bitten, and with a yelp of pain he goes down on his elbow.
The girl squirms away from him, kicking at him with her boots. One of them connects, she hears him grunt and feels him fall away. She scrambles to her feet and runs. She’s lost her bearings now and doesn’t know which way she’s going. But in a few seconds she comes to a street. There are still a few cars moving, but no pedestrians. She stops and waves, trying to flag someone down.
The man slams into her, knocking her over. They sprawl on the sidewalk, the girl flailing and kicking at him again, yelling bloody murder, the man desperately trying to make her stop and listen.
* * *
“Slow night,” Marley said, twizzling the lime in a vodka tonic. It was his third. Or fourth. He cupped his hand over the glass as if to measure it. Felt like the third. His hand, like the rest of him, was square and meaty. His bulldog build made his mild voice and easy manner seem practiced, and there was something in his eyes, when he let it show, that could stop a person cold.
“Yeah, Mondays are slow,” the bartender said.
Susan something. He could never remember her last name. But she was his favorite bartender, and this was his favorite bar. Bernie’s. Barry’s. Something like that. Clean and dark and cozy. Close to the hospital. And tonight it was empty: downtown bar on a frostbitten weeknight.
“At least we’re here,” Marley said.
“Yup. But I’m working. What’s your excuse?”
“I’m in recovery.”
Marley frowned. “Yes. I told you that one?”
“Yesterday you were in recovery from Sunday. Tomorrow you’ll be in recovery from Tuesday.”
“And Wednesday’s child is full of woe,” he said. “I guess I’ve exhausted my repertoire of not-so-wisecracks.”
“You’re all right. Always nice to see you again.”
“Thanks, but I—”
Marley’s phone buzzed. He plucked it out of his jacket pocket — it looked like a gold fountain pen — and checked the caller ID on the barrel.
“Looks like I’m busted,” he said. “It’s the cops.”
“They must have found out I’m a criminal bore.”
He laid one end of the phone against his ear, and when he squeezed it the other end curled in toward the corner of his mouth.
“Doctor Marley?” said the caller.
“Yes,” Marley said.
Susan drifted down to the other end of the bar and watched TV.
“Dr. Marley,” said the caller, “this is Sergeant Wissert, Evanston Police. I think we have a patient of yours in custody. Roger Sturgeon?”
Marley sighed wearily.
“Yes. Paranoid schizophrenic.”
“Northwestern University security officers apprehended him this evening. They turned him over to us about twenty minutes ago. Seems he’s been chasing students all over campus. He didn’t have any ID on him, and he wouldn’t talk to us. We ran a rid on him and came up with his record. That’s how we got your name, doctor.”
“Ran a what?”
“Right. OK.” Marley was feeling the vodka a little. “Did he hurt anyone?” he said, trying to sound especially professional.
“Not really. Scared the panties off a couple of girls though. Northwestern police are pretty pissed about the whole thing. I guess they’ve been getting reports and trying to find him for hours.”
“Well, he’s smart.” Marley waved at Susan for a refill. “Reload, please.”
“What?” said the caller.
“Nothing. So what can I do for you?”
“We need to get him off the street. I see on his record that he’s done a few turns in Joplin Psychiatric. He’s obviously delusional. So, if you wanted to sign a commitment order tonight, we could maybe avoid locking him up on an assault charge.”
In the background, another voice: “I’m not delusional. I’m perfectly lucid! I’m trying to help you! Try to understand—”
“Be quiet!” someone else said.
“That’s him,” the sergeant said.
“Yes,” Marley said.
“So what do you want to do, doc? We’re about done here.”
“We’re in the emergency room at General. He got a nasty bite on the hand from the last little girl he jumped.”
Marley could hear him smiling.
“She was pretty shook up, but she’ll be all right. Cute little thing too.”
“So, if you want to commit him, we might be able to convince Northwestern to drop charges.”
“He’s married. Have you talked to his wife?”
“Not yet. The number we have on record for him is wrong.”
“Did you check his phone? Her number is probably on his cell phone.”
“I’ll check on that.”
Susan returned and set a fresh drink in front of him, spilling some of it.
“Thanks.” Then to the officer: “Wife’s name is Karen. Different last name. I forget what it is. But if you need it you can get it from my office in the morning.”
“So what do you want us to do with Mr. Sturgeon here?”
Marley took a drink, getting his sleeve wet. He rolled up his sleeves as he talked, revealing tattoos on both forearms. “OK, let’s put him back in Joplin. Why don’t you message me the order to sign.”
“All right. I’ll call the precinct and have them send a three-day commit over to you. Should they use this number?”
Marley hung up and clipped the phone back in his pocket. He took out his mini-tablet and started scribbling orders: 24-hour isolation, restraints PRN, resume meds (see hx for specs), maintain standing orders, call if changes…
“Everything all right?” she said.
“Just another day at the office.”
“Thought you were off the clock.”
“Trouble with a patient. He goes off his meds now and then. Usually gets in trouble when he does.” He took a drink. “Interesting fellow, this patient. You’d like him. He was a scientist before he got sick. Really brilliant. His delusions are very sophisticated.”
“I have a few clients like that myself.”
“Sure. Bartender, shrink, same thing basically.”
“I’ll drink to that. Cheers!”
“I never drink with patients.”
“Ha! I’m just doing this till I make it to the big time. What about you?”
“Same here. My plan is to hit the lottery. What’s yours?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
The commitment order came. He signed and dated it — February 15, 2027 — and sent it back. Then he fired off his orders to Joplin’s admissions office and put his mini-tab away again.
“That’s that,” he said. “Where were we?”
“You were telling me how you plan to get rich and famous.”
“That’s right. Thousands of adoring fans. A gaggle of groupies at my beck and call. And flights of angels to sing me to rest.”
“Sounds great. What’ll your wife think of all that?”
“I think she’s resigned herself to the inevitable,” Marley said stiffly, and took another drink.
Susan saw she hit a nerve and changed the subject. Pointing at his arms with her chin, she said, “Nice tats.”
He turned his arms out so she could see them. A Chinese dragon curled down the inside of his left arm, a Chinese tiger down his right.
“Get those at shrink school?” she said.
“Before shrink school. In the navy. I think I was compensating.”
“For being a lowly communications officer. I was a runt of a kid then. Not the fine figure of a man you see before you now.”
She looked around the empty bar. “Really? Where?”
“Touché.” He raised his glass to her. She smiled. Still holding the glass, he extended one finger and ran it down the dragon on the other arm. “I got them in Taiwan. They’re Shaolin temple brands. But actually that’s bullshit. There’s no such thing.”
“They’re high quality though. Very good work.”
“Young, dumb, and et cetera. Long time ago.”
“Did you like the navy?”
“Loathed it. But it paid for shrink school.”
“And those tattoos.”
“Yup. Three months’ pay. And now I have to go to work in long sleeves.”
“You don’t really like your job, do you?”
He pulled his chin in, ducking a punch. “Now and then. When I get an interesting case or an interesting patient. Like this fellow the police just called about. He was brilliant before he got sick. He was on the team that found the first proof of extrasolar life. I think they were considered for a Nobel prize. There are videos of him lecturing and giving talks about it. He’s still brilliant. Much smarter than me anyway. I would like to be able to help him get his life back.”
“It’s hard. I’ve been treating him for years. We still know so little about how the brain gets broken. Sometimes I think we don’t want to know really.”
Susan leaned back against the counter behind her, studying him.
He admired her figure. The bartenders here all dressed in tight black shirts and slacks.
“So here’s my question for you, doc,” she said, an impish light in her eye. “What’s a shrink with bad ass tats doing hanging out in a dead bar on a weeknight flirting with the bartender rather than going home and getting busy with his lovely wife? If you don’t mind me asking.”
Marley didn’t like it. “You ask some questions.”
“I’m just curious.”
“Curiosity killed the cat.”
“But you like your wife, don’t you?”
“Crazy about her actually.”
“So you’re iffy on your job and crazy about your wife, but you work late and you drink later. I’m just curious.”
“Do I need to call my lawyer, officer?”
“Why, are you guilty of something?”
“I think my wife thinks so.”
“Ya think? Husband comes home late every night…”
“Not about that,” he said, waving the idea away. “It’s not that.” He felt the alcohol loosening his reserve, but he didn’t fight it. “She’s disappointed in me.”
Susan’s expression changed. She saw the guilt in his face.
“Things were supposed to be different,” he said, not looking at her. “Life wasn’t supposed to be this easy.”
“Can you fix it?”
“I don’t know.”
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