Dr Henry Parsons, an epidemiologist, has been asked by the World Health Organization to investigate a cluster of deaths in an internment camp in Indonesia. He discovers that the illness, which he does not recognize, is a highly contagious virus, and infected people have travelled from the site, even out of the country. Soon, there is a global pandemic, causing millions of deaths. As global relationships become strained, Dr Parsons and his team work to find a vaccine.
“Typically, with a pandemic, you have two or three big waves of contagion before it settles down and becomes normal flu you get every year. That lasts until the next pandemic comes along. So, if this one is like the 1918 flu, the really big wave will hit in October.”
“Streets were dark, traffic signals didn’t function, banks had stopped making loans, grocery stores were practically bare, the internet was still down, D. C. was sweltering, but high-end hotels and restaurants found a way to reopen. The Mandarin Oriental, Trump International, the Palm, Cafe Milano – one by one, the oases of influence came back to life. The rich and powerful had a ledge of safety that couldn’t be reached by ordinary people.”~Quotes from “The End of October” by Lawrence Wright
Reading about a global pandemic, whilst in the middle of one is strange, and a bit unnerving. For me, this book bordered too much on non-fiction, with copious explanations and descriptions of viruses, their characteristics and behaviour, as well as unpronounceable medical terminology.
The opinions of others:
- The Atlantic: “When things in real life feel appalling, there’s some comfort in reading about all the terrible events that haven’t happened (yet): mass looting and food shortages in the United States, a power cut that wipes out all the data in the cloud, the unraveling of society.” …”The propulsive plot is counterweighted with rigorous, gracefully presented context on the history and behavior of diseases.”
- NPR: “a fast-paced thriller with big, sweeping, made-for-the-adapted-screenplay action sequences, but populated by one-dimensional walking resumes who speak in paragraph-long expository chunks.”
- Kirkus: “A disturbing, eerily timed novel but no page-turner.”