New Worker Banner

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

An anti-vaxxer’s pipedream

Review by Ben Soton

The Pandemic Plot (Ben Hope, Book 23) by Scott Marian, HarperCollins, 2021. Paperback: 400pp, rrp £7.99.

THE Pandemic Plot is a novel you are just as likely to see in your local Tesco as in Waterstones or WH Smith; it is, after all, in the Sunday Times’ Top Five best seller list. The title is topical in the current climate, which is why I considered it worth reading.

The Pandemic Plot The novel is one of many based around the former SAS major and theology student Ben Hope.

Hope is an emotionally dysfunctional action hero with similarities to Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Like Dirk Pitt, Hope discovered he had a son who was conveniently hidden from him until reaching adulthood. In defence of Ben Hope and his creator, Scott Mariani, he is a more believable character as are his stories, being better paced with the plots containing stories from the past.

Meanwhile, unlike the original action hero James Bond, who works directly for the state, Hope runs his own company based in France, the interestingly named Le Val institute. In other words, a privatised action hero who does not follow orders from anyone else.

In the novel, Hope discovers a rogue pharmaceutical firm has been selling chemical weapons to terrorists and rogue states. The firm in question, the Galliard Group, has its origins in the First World War with attempts to create mustard gas. At this point I realised the novel pipedreamwas leading the reader down the conspiracy theory path.

In reality the 1918 influenza pandemic, misleadingly called the “Spanish flu”, started in the USA and spread to Europe via American troop ships whilst Western governments have been less than covertly supporting terrorism against socialist and secular governments for decades – no conspiracy here.

This plotline, however, is essentially a narrative of the right or even far-right. A shady corporation run by an evil genius, with no reference to capitalism as an economic system. This evil genius, or secretive cabal of individuals, needs to be brought down by a lone, slightly dysfunctional hero.

Once this has been achieved the world can go back to normal; in other words, the system is basically fine, it just needs the odd bad apple removed. This narrative has similarities with the Q-Anon conspiracies that form the basis of Donald Trump’s support in the USA.

I almost laughed aloud when the villains were defeated literally by two men and a dog, in a somewhat anti-climactic ending. Meanwhile, the novel’s epilogue contains a bizarre ‘what if’ scenario about sinister men in white coats unleashing viruses on the population.

It continues with mutterings about vaccines not being much better than the actual virus. I would not be surprised if this novel became popular amongst COVID-19 conspiracists, whose actions only serve to undermine public health and function as foot soldiers for the most reactionary sections of capitalism.