Although the story is mainly centered around the smallpox outbreak in the United states in October, 2001, the story bounces around between timelines and settings in order to explain and go further into the history of the disease itself. Mainly though, the story goes between Germany, India, and the United Kingdom.
The timeline probably played a more significant role seeing as how just a month before these events happened 9/11 occurred. The world was probably still in shock from those events and kept on their toes. This probably lead officials to pay more mind to terrorist attacks.
The book itself is an anthology; all the chapters, although they follow a general them, do not necessarily follow the same storyline as the preceding chapter. That being said, two characters that I thought were particularly dynamic were Lawrence Brilliant, a doctor, Lisa Hensley Henderson, a microbiologist. Brilliant, in 1970, was commanded by some guru in India to eradicate smallpox so he starts working with the World Health Organization. He ends up stationing himself in Bihar, India. Lisa, on the other hand, was recruited to work on Ebola but ended up doing research on the smallpox infection in monkeys.
Although it was kind of confusing at first, I liked the arrangement of the book and how the author went between timelines to try to describe different crucial events related to the smallpox outbreak. I like how the non-fictitious nature of the book makes it even more applicable to our lives. Not only that, but because it is non-fiction doctors, politicians, world leaders, and health researchers can apply the findings from these events to better serve the people or do their jobs.
I did not like how there really was not an ending to any story. The author just talked about multiple stories and, although it was intriguing, it made each story less impactful but also left kind of a floating, awkward question of, "what happens now?".
In October 2001, a month after 9/11, another terrorist attack occured where anthrax was slipped into letters being sent to U.S. officials. Robert Stevens, an assistant for The Sun, became a victim instead. This initiated the 3 week outbreak in the United States and this domino'd into other countries like India and the United Kingdom which ended up being handled by the Department of Justice, the United States Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Another story in the book follows the microbiologist Lisa Hensley Henderson, who studied the capability of smallpox in non-human animals. They found that one strain, the India strain, killed the primates significantly quicker than the Harper strain.
To me, there really was no ending. The author kind of summarized what happened in history. This makes sense though because of the anthology-like structure and non-fiction nature of the book itself. I was hoping, however, that he would tie up all of the stories better instead or end it with a claim about how future medical researchers, scientists, and involved politicians can help protect their people and citizens by taking into account what happened in the book. Instead, he concluded it with a riddle and an infected child arm.
Do you recommend this book?