The Moses Virus: A Novel

Image of The Moses Virus: A Novel
Release Date: 
January 7, 2014
Taylor Trade Publishing
Reviewed by: 

“. . . fairly entertaining with an enjoyable premise, but the reader must be willing to forgive stock characters and overlook plot holes and leaps of time, as well as the particularly cheesy ending.”

An ancient virus long-trapped in archaeological ruins kills two American scholars in the recently discovered rooms of Emperor Nero’s Golden Palace. Tom Stewart, the hero, is an NYU forensic archaeologist visiting Italy during these deaths and becomes involved in the discovery of what killed his colleagues.

As he digs to discover the origins and nature of this virus, Dr. Stewart becomes entangled in a race to prevent the remainder of the virus from landing into the greedy corporate hands of the world’s largest genetically modified seed manufacturer.

The Moses Virus by Jack Hyland is reminiscent of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons with action, adventure, danger, the scheming of the Vatican, and an academic hero. While Hyland is not Dan Brown, there are several hooks and story threads in the book to keep a reader turning pages. What ultimately brings the book down is the lack of time awareness, plot holes, and sexist female stereotypes.

Admittedly the author attempts to steer away from female stereotypes, but it is a nominal effort at best and an insult at worse. Alex, Dr. Stewart’s love interest, is incapable of commonsense and first gained interest in archaeology to chase after a man; she then proceeds throughout the story to chase after Dr. Stewart.

Initially readers are introduced to an intelligent, worldly woman in Alex, but her intelligence slips out the window once the plot evolves. For instance, when told to enter the Trajan aqueducts, she goes in wearing sandals, and even after she is warned to wear walking shoes and beware of rats. Alex is the good, but somewhat helpless and hapless, girl, and the foil to the femme fatale Crystal Close.

Crystal is the strongest of the two female characters, yet her looks are given importance, her motives and actions are murky, and she succeeds in slipping out of trouble by having “’the goods’ on the company” rather than being a good candidate for the position. Crystal has to blackmail her way to the top—at least she isn’t sleeping her way there, and stock in the company plummets when she is named CEO.

While Dr. Stewart offers Crystal credit as clever and strong, it is clear in the world Hyland has created, that Crystal is sneaky and morally ambiguous at best. Admittedly sexism exists, women do act like both Crystal and Alex, but plot wise there was no good reason to give into creating these stock characters when strong ones would have done just as well, perhaps even better, in supporting the hero.

The plot is oddly believable if the reader is cynical about large corporations such as Monsanto. The Moses Virus could be a political and social commentary, a warning even, of the greed and destruction humans bring onto themselves with shortsighted agendas and capitalism. The plot is the best part of the book, despite a few holes. A colleague of Dr. Stewart’s discovers mention of the so-called Moses virus in a series of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Readers learn along with Dr. Stewart about the virus.

Regarding plot holes, there is only so much belief a reader can be asked to suspend. When the showdown between good and evil is coming to a head at Kronberg, it is highly unbelievable that the specially trained tactical forces put in place to take down armed and dangerous guards would ever allow Dr. Stewart inside, much less hand him a gun when he has never used one. Also quite unlikely is the idea that Dr. Stewart would call the shots instead of an Epidemic Intelligence Surveillance member, which readers are told are “Navy SEALs, but dedicated to epidemiologic work. They’re extremely good.”  

Another issue with the writing is the obliviousness to time. The first instance occurs within paragraphs of each other. Someone tells Dr. Stewart that his colleague’s parents “will be landing in a few hours,” there are a few paragraphs as they discuss the American Academy where they are currently at, then “Caroline looked at her watch. ‘I expect Eric’s parents have landed and are probably on their way to the Academy right now.’” There is no sense between the paragraphs that enough time has passed for “a few hours” to have fled, much less enough time for these American parents to have landed, collected their bags, gone through customs, and hailed a cab that’s coming through Rome’s traffic.

Strangely, in Chapter 17, after following Dr. Stewart’s point of view for the entire book, the point of view switches over to two German thugs who have kidnapped Alex and are attempting to shake off Dr. Stewart and the Swiss police. Readers are offered no insight to the storyline, and everything that occurs in this chapter could have easily been relayed through Dr. Stewart’s continued point of view or through dialogue with other characters.

Overall, the book is worth a library checkout if not the cost of purchasing it. It is fairly entertaining with an enjoyable premise, but the reader must be willing to forgive stock characters and overlook plot holes and leaps of time, as well as the particularly cheesy ending.