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The Green Leopard Plague by Walter Jon Williams

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“The Green Leopard Plague” is a 2003 science fiction novella by Walter Jon Williams. It is about a genetically altered mermaid who is researching why the founder of her modern society went missing for three weeks.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

The Rock Islands in Palau“The Green Leopard Plague” follows Michelle, a woman who has consciously chosen to be a flying mermaid, live in the Rock Islands of Palau and do difficult, time consuming research. After the death of her boyfriend, she has thrown herself into her work – and her isolation. She therefore considers it a great challenge when an old professor asks her to find out why the founder of modern economics, Jonathan Terzian, went missing for three weeks before presenting his most famous paper. This is no problem for Michelle as she sends her automated research spiders out into the electronic world. What she discovers turns out to be a high stakes game of international espionage involving little known Soviet republics, aid workers in Africa and a new way to provide for the world’s poor.

And then, in the angry silence, he heard a creak in the corridor, and then a stumbling thud.

Thick rubber military soles, he thought. With drunk baboons in them. Instinct shrieked at him not to be trapped in this room, this dead-end where he could be trapped and killed. He dropped Stephanie’s clothes back into the drawer and stepped to the bed and picked up the duffel in one hand. Another step took him to the door, which he opened with one hand while using the other to fling the duffel into the surprised face of the drunken murderer on the other side.

Terzian hadn’t been at his Kenpo school in six years, not since he’d left Kansas City, but certain reflexes don’t go away after they’ve been drilled into a person thousands of times – certainly not the front kick that hooked upward under the intruder’s breastbone and drove him breathless into the corridor wall opposite.

A primitive element of his mind rejoiced in the fact that he was bigger than these guys. He could really knock them around.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • This is a really fun story to read! It is akin to a cross between “The Little Mermaid” and “The DaVinci Code!”
  • Some of the science fiction themes presented in “The Green Leopard Plague” are really quite cool! The ideas of the Green Leopard Plague and the economic model needed to sustain it were well thought out and convincing.
  • There is more than one story thread going on in this story – which was cool. There is a great surprise in the end when we find out what really happened to Michelle’s boyfriend!

• The bad:

  • There is some strong language in “The Green Leopard Plague” , including several uses of the F-bomb, so be aware of that.
  • This is a pretty long story, so you might enjoy it more if you break it up into several readings. Unless you’re some sort of Superman reader who can plow through it in one sitting!
  • There are some minor grammatical bugs in the Night Shade Books version I read – which was annoying but not a show stopper.

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 54
• Word Count: 25,604
“The Green Leopard Plague” garnered the following awards:

  • It won the 2005 Nebula Award for Best Novella.
  • It placed 5th in the 2004 Asimov’s Reader Poll, and 8th in the 2004 Locus poll.
  • It was also nominated for the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Novella.

Where you can find “The Green Leopard Plague”:

  • This novella first appeared in the October / November 2003 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
  • You can download a nice version of “The Green Leopard Plague” at Night Shade Books. There are four formats to choose from, including PDF, rich text, HTML and MobiPocket – great for printing too!

Some Interesting Links:

  • I had no idea that Transnistria really existed, but hey – I learned all about it on Wikipedia. See – who says you don’t learn anything by reading science fiction?
  • Another place that I knew existed, but still seems almost too fantastical to be true, were the Rock Islands in Palau. How cool would it be to live there and swim with the stingless jellyfish? (Yep, this is the place featured on Survivor.)

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like A Spy in Europa, about a spy on one of the moons of Jupiter, by Alastair Reynolds.