Many years ago, > 20, I read a story about a man who lost his wife and kids in some event. In his grief he developed a virus or bacteria that would cause women to age rapidly and die, effectively making the whole world suffer as he did. The story follows a few characters as they work to deal with the pandemic and search for a cure. I remember that the disease was spread by placing the infectious material on money. In the end societal norms had to change to deal with the lack of women.

I believe I have the main plot elements described. I would love to read the story again, especially in relation to changes to current norms and the advent of CRISPR gene manipulation, but I cannot find it. Any thoughts as to the author or title would be appreciated.


1 Answer 1


This is The White Plague by Frank Herbert.

When an IRA terrorist car bomb explodes, the wife and children of molecular biologist John Roe O'Neill are indiscriminately killed on May 20, 1996. Driven halfway insane by loss, his mind fragments into several personalities that carry out his plan for him. He plans a gendercidal revenge and creates a plague that kills only women, but for which men are the carriers. O'Neill then releases it in Ireland (for supporting the terrorists), England (for oppressing the Irish and giving them a cause), and Libya (for training said terrorists); he demands that the governments of the world send all citizens of those countries back to their countries, and that they quarantine those countries and let the plague run its course, so they will lose what he has lost; if they do not, he has more plagues to release.

Wikipedia: The White Plague

Note that the protagonist does indeed use money as a transmission vector for the plague

“What does he see around him that gives him this knowledge?” Hupp asked. “How does he assure himself his method or methods will work?”
“What if he could contaminate paper?” Foss asked.
Beckett moved his lips soundlessly, an unspoken word. He repeated it aloud: “Money!” He looked up to find himself the focus of five pairs of staring eyes. Hupp exhaled a long “Ahhhhhhhhhh.”
“Through the mails?” Danzas asked.
“Would that not contaminate everyone who handled such mail?” Lepikov asked.

and that the "plague" causes premature aging

“I’ve read the Canadian report,” Stonar said.
But did you understand it? Beckett wondered. He said: “Good. Then you’ll follow that we believe this plague causes a kind of premature aging, very swift, no time for many of the usual side manifestations. I call your attention to the white blotches on the extremities. Very suggestive.”
“Genes to control aging?” Stonar asked, a sudden intense curiosity in his voice.

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  • 5
    "Chilling and prophetic!" What, the reviewers forsaw the inevitabile day when a scientist's alternate personalities would seek revenge against the IRA by trying to kill all women? Or even just one of those things?
    – Adamant
    Apr 27, 2018 at 22:40
  • 3
    "A tale of awesome revenge!" Hmmm....
    – Adamant
    Apr 27, 2018 at 22:42
  • 1
    @Adamant - Well, "the IRA brought to its knees by world events" seems right on the money
    – Valorum
    Apr 28, 2018 at 3:14
  • Thanks I will read "The White Plague" and see if it was the one I was thinking about. The plot details seem correct.
    – user99753
    Apr 30, 2018 at 16:34

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