The Blue Germ by Maurice Nicoll

A Small Masterpiece

Self Portrait 2010
Self Portrait 2010

Maurice Nicholl, who wrote this under the nom de plume of Martin Swayne, was one of the great Fourth Way teachers of the 20th century. Nicholl wrote fiction in the years roughly 1911 to 1924. This is “science fiction”. And it is science fiction of the type and style written in this period in the UK. Its style is quintessentially “British”, its pace Edwardian, its techniques simple yet setting up a protagonism between points of view spiritual and materialistic. And it is a flowing, compelling story. Except for the techniques used to make manifest the ending.

The story of The Blue Germ is simple and intriguing. Two doctors, one Russian and one English, discover a bacillus with powerful properties. The story begins with Dr Harden tripping over his black cat, hitting his head, and, in the consciousness shock that follows he comes to the perception of an immense scientific discovery. Together with his colleague Sarakoff they perfect the Sarakoff-Harden bacillus. The properties of which are … to kill all other germs in the human body. And the consequence of this … well … human beings will be immortal. Unless they are actively killed, of course.

So, what better way for an Edwardian scientist to test his “theory” than to test it out … in real life. And so the pair of them introduce the bacillus into the water supply of Birmingham in Midlands England. The bacillus flourishes and creates the “Blue Disease”, since fingernails and eye whites turn blue. Together with the fact that all those who are currently ill have their illnesses removed at a fast pace.

Well … huge changes in “society” will be needed … and … how will different characters and personalities react to the prospect of immortality? Hah!

The Blue Germ is actually a compelling story well told. The conciseness of it is pretty similar to that of Michael Crichton. Style too, stripping away the Edwardian-ness of Nicholl writing as Swayne. And the story … well … there are many stories about “germs” in our modern consciousness. We seem to love them! The Blue Germ would make a marvelous, Crichton-esque movie. The ending? Forgive the book the ending – it is “poor”. But getting there is not! Enjoy it. No guns, car chases, electronic eavesdropping, mayhem-in-general. What would you do if you were told that you are now immortal … exactly, exactly as you are (age, appearance etc.) right now.


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