Book Review: The End of October by Lawrence Wright

The End of October
Lawrence Wright

The End of October by Lawrence Wright
My rating: 4 stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Publisher: Knopf

It's probably somewhat perverse to read about a pandemic while living through one but my factory setting is one who seeks out pre/post-apocalyptic stories so, I am as I am and had to read this book. 

By now, no one needs the broad strokes of the havoc, death and economic dismantling a pandemic unleashes so just know that Wright hits all those notes. He also has things that I very much hope don't come to fruition on humanity's future. It's quite bleak. Still, there is a measure of hope in the end.

I'd say this book was better at theme than in characterization. The characters very much reminded me of those in Kim Stanely Robinson's Science in the Capital series. No real depth but good enough to move the story along. I wasn't attached to any of them but they were serviceable. I did bristle at the bureaucrats and politicians being so preoccupied with not just capitalizing on the crisis but in some measure ignoring the severity of the pandemic to one-up on the usual geopolitical situation. It chaffed because it so depressingly rang true.


Summary: At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When Henry Parsons--microbiologist, epidemiologist--travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe: an infected man is on his way to join the millions of worshippers in the annual Hajj to Mecca. Now, Henry joins forces with a Saudi prince and doctor in an attempt to quarantine the entire host of pilgrims in the holy city . . . A Russian émigré, a woman who has risen to deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security, scrambles to mount a response to what may be an act of biowarfare . . . Already-fraying global relations begin to snap, one by one, in the face of a pandemic . . . Henry's wife, Jill, and their children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta . . . And the disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions--scientific, religious, governmental--and decimating the population. As packed with suspense as it is with the fascinating history of viral diseases, Lawrence Wright has given us a full-tilt, electrifying, one-of-a-kind thriller.

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