Spillover was reviewed in the FT and has more than lived up to their recommendation. If ever there were a justification for government investment in scientific research this is it at its best. David Quammen describes meetings with scientists and medics across the world, joining them on gruelling research treks through African jungle, visiting the scenes of outbreaks wether they are a Dutch town, Hong Kong or an African village and interviewing them at their high bio-security laboratories in Atlanta and elsewhere. It is a convincing story that will be essential reading for many. His factual accounts of the outbreak , identification and subsequent containment of 'killer diseases' are very readable, becoming just slightly more questionable with a postulated scenario for the origins of HIV. Whist this necessarily fictional account, makes perfect sense with a suggested spillover from a single chimpanzee, at the beginning of the 20th century, there is no account given to how the spread of HIV (which takes a long time to manifest itself) might have been previously contained by the vulnerability of those infected to other diseases, particularly smallpox.(or any explanation as to why not).
There is much more to be taken away from reading this book than just science and it is told in a way that is intelligible to anybody with an interest in our societies ability to both solve problems but equally create them. For example who, other than the medics amongst us, are aware that a strain of malaria was used in the early 20th century to offer relief, if not a cure, to syphilis patients who were subject to a form of "pyrotherapy", as the syphilis bug could be killed by the temperature that the malaria induced. Or that the last outbreak of Q fever in 2007/8 was due to a dry spring and the factory farming methods used for goat milk.
This is not a book that should alarm, the story is about life in a crowded world, and an exceptional testament to those who work to keep us safe.