Answer the following questions from Robin Cook's Vector:
1. What was the importance of the infected owner of the Corinthian Rug Company with anthrax?
2. Why did Curt and Steve think Yuri was such a loose cannon? What instances enhanced these feelings?
3. What was the inspiration behind Yuri’s disgust with America? Curt and Steve’s?
4. Why was Yuri important to Curt and Steve? Where did Yuri receive his training? What is Compound 19? Why did Yuri have to leave there and how did it affect his family?
5. What was the role of the PPA (People’s Aryan Army)?
6. Name the casualties and describe their significance.
7. What is Operation Wolverine?
8. What was the purpose of the inspection of the Jacob Javits Federal Building? Significance of the HVAC system?
9. Why was the botulinum not used for Operation Wolverine? Why was anthrax preferred? How was each being cultured? What was the original source of these two bioweapons?
10. Why was the method of Connie’s death significant? 2 reasons. What was she not autopsied?
How was she eventually diagnosed? What simultaneous occurrence indicated a possible epidemic in her neighborhood?
11. Why was Laurie disenchanted with Paul Sutherland? What was the possible relationship between Paul’s profession and the PAA?
12. What is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)?
13. How did Jack and Laurie end up at Yuri’s house?
14. Explain the irony of the ending. How did Operation Wolverine play out? Who had the last laugh?
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- While the choice of the Corinthian Rug Company and its proprietor, Jason Papparis, initially seems entirely arbitrary, as Robin Cook’s Vector proceeds, it is revealed that Papparis is targeted because of his Turkish business connections and the prevalence of this particular strain of anthrax in Turkey. The rug company is chosen by Yuri to conceal the origins of the anthrax.
- Steve refers to Yuri as “a loose cannon,” a sentiment to which Curt agrees, because of the erratic behavior and because of the Russian émigré’s failure to follow agreed-upon procedures for how the three men should meet: “I’m worried the guy is a kind of a loose cannon, “ Steve said. “I think we have to have a talk with him. At the same time, I’d like to see some proof that he hasn’t been taking us for a ride.” Curt nodded as he paced, then stopped.”
- Yuri’s disgust with America is a product of his failure to attain the level of success he had enjoyed in Russia as a professional biochemist. His job as a cab driver is significantly less prestigious than the life to which he feels entitled:
“Metaphorically his life had a lot in common with the stalled traffic. It was dead in the water, and as a result, Yuri was completely disillusioned. By sad experience he now knew that the enticing American dream that had been his driving force was a sham, one foisted onto the world by the American Jewish-dominated media.”
- Yuri is important to Curt and Steve because of his training in the development of biological weapons. Yuri had worked at the Biopreparat facility in Russia – that nation’s main center of research into and development of biological weapons [“The factory was benignly called Compound 19”]. Cook’s novel borrows from a real-life incident that occurred in the Russian (then-Soviet) town of Sverdlovsk. An accidental explosion at a secret biological weapons facility in the Ural Mountains spread deadly anthrax spores around a surrounding region, contaminating food supplies and causing an outbreak of the disease. In Cook’s novel, Yuri’s mother is among the victims of the accident, and Yuri is blamed.
- The role of the People’s Aryan Army is to provide a context for the breadth of the attack and to establish a setting wherein anti-government sentiments play a role in facilitating the chain of events. As the PAA is described in the story:
“It’s a shadowy group, “ Gordon said. “All we know is what we’ve been able to intercept off the Internet, which, by the way, has become the major method of communication for these neo-fascist nuts.
All we know about PAA is that it’s located somewhere in the New York metropolitan area, and it’srecruited some of the local skinheads. But the more disturbing part has been some vague references to an upcoming maor event. We’re worried they might be planning something violent.”
“Something like the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, “ Lou said. “Some major terrorist thing.”
Again, Cook borrows from real-life, in this case the 1995 terrorist bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.
- Not sure about this question, as the plot ultimately fails. Yuri has killed his wife and Jason Papparis, however, so they would constitute casualties.
- Operation Wolverine is the name of the terrorist operation the three men are planning to carry out. As described in the novel:
“Several weeks later over iced shots of vodka Curt, Yuri, and Steve had shaken hands on the commencement of what they called Operation Wolverine. Yuri hadn’t known what a wolverine was, so Curt explained it was a small, extremely vicious, cunning animal. At the time Curt had winked at Steve, because Wolverine really referred to a group of youths in a survivalist movie classic called Red Dawn. It was Curt and Steve’s favorite movie. In it the Wolverines had held off the entire invading Russian Army.”
- The purpose of the inspection of the Jacob Javits Federal Building, and the significance of the HVAC system, is to facilitate the execution of the terrorist operation. The building is the target because of its significance to the plotters – named for a former Jewish member of the government all three oppose – and has to be studied so that the conspirators can calculate how best to disburse the biological weapon to maximize the number of casualties. The HVAC system is important because the key to disbursing the biological agent as widely as possible throughout the building is to run it through the heating and ventilation system.
- The botulinum cultures were eliminated from consideration because their production was lagging far behind that of the anthrax: “He [Yuri] was having difficulty with the Clostridium botulinum cultures. They just weren’t growing as he’d hoped or expected.” Yuri had planned to use both because of their different physical properties and different effects, which would make diagnosis and treatment by authorities more difficult.
- Yuri murdered Connie for two overlapping reasons: their marriage was a shambles, and it would enable him to test the effectiveness of the botulinum – a disease that, as with many biological organisms used for weaponry, occurs in nature and would not necessarily appear unduly suspicious to medical examiners, especially in a decrepit neighborhood like the one in which they lived. In fact, the medical examiners initially attribute her death to acute respiratory failure, with Yuri claiming a history of asthma on the part of Connie. She was not initially autopsied because of the initial examination by an attending physician concluded precisely what Yuri hoped he would -- that Connie died of natural causes. Unfortunately for Yuri, Jack, Flash and Warren become suspicious and have an autopsy performed, which reveals evidence of the biological agent. Toxicology reports based upon tissue samples revealed the presence of botulinum. Flash, of course, was Connie’s brother, he strongly suspected foul play given Yuri’s history of abusing Connie. The “rat die-off” that was occurring in the neighborhood precipitated a move to perform an autopsy to determine whether there was a linkage.
- Laurie begins to sour on her relationship to Paul Sutherland because he remains an enigma to her and very distant, do, no doubt, to his arrest for cocaine possession and profession as an arms trafficker (“He used to have a monopoly of sorts importing Bulgarian AK-47s . . .”) Laurie is described as very supportive of gun control (“She’d like to disarm the entire country, including patrolmen”), and liberal in her politics so the relationship with an arms trafficker linked to white supremacists was bound to be a bit rocky.
- The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) refers to the process by which samples are tested for evidence of a particular agent. As Cook has his characters discuss the potential for such agents, Jack asks his colleague about the procedures:
“Are there any tests for the spores or do you just have to grow them out and then test for the bacteria? “
“There’s a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test for the spores, “ Agnes said. “We don’t do that in micro, but I’m sure Ted Lynch in the DNA lab could help you. Do you have something you want to test for spores? “
- As the team of investigators begin to find connections between events, including illnesses with similar symptomology, they begin to reflect again on the case of Connie Davydov, which in turn causes them to reflect on the late woman’s Russian émigré husband and his background in the field of epidemiology.
- The plot is ultimately foiled by the growing division between Yuri and the white supremacists, who view Slavic people as racially inferior. During their visit to Yuri’s home, Jack and Laurie interrogate him and learn about the conspiracy to contaminate Central Park and the federal building with anthrax spores. Yuri is more concerned with getting credit for the plot than he is with its completion, especially if it means Curt and Steve don’t get credit for Yuri’s expertise. That Yuri ends up being shot in the head by Curt lends a degree of irony to the story, as Yuri’s obsession with fame would come to fruition only posthumously. That he succeeded, however, in contaminating Curt and Steve with anthrax lends Vector its final bit of irony. In that sense, Yuri got the last laugh; he just didn’t live to appreciate the moment.
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