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12 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor focus spoils tremendous research, 26 Aug. 2003
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This review is from: The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (Paperback)
The audience and purpose of this book is not clear. In part it acts as a detailed history of the fight against new types of harmful microbes. But it jumps from one piece of history to another without clear explanation and it contains so much political opinion that I wondered about its historical accuracy.
Another aspect of the book is its description of the individual scientists as they engage in exciting and dangerous hunts to identify and understand new diseases. But such descriptions become more detailed and long-winded as the book progresses and with so many scientists named it is difficult to keep track.
A third element is an attempt to demonstrate the relationship between human society and microbes and how all parts of the world, rich and poor, are connected. This is the most original part of the book. Garrett’s extraordinarily detailed, and at times fascinating, descriptions give considerable weight to her argument that infectious diseases should be addressed primarily from an ecological rather than a clinical point of view.
Her suggestion, however, that the health risks in Africa, with its poverty, civil wars and political corruption, are a great threat to the Western World is not really convincing. Furthermore, while stressing the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics through over-use, there is no mention of probiotics (beneficial microbes used to counteract harmful ones) and her tone is therefore unnecessarily pessimistic.
Garrett’s political prejudices also get in the way. While she is fearless in criticising politicians, bureaucrats and religious leaders, she treats male homosexuals with kid gloves. She makes it clear that the excesses of gay men (ie: many having more than a hundred sexual partners a year) is a major factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Such behaviour is, however, described as ‘fast-track sex’, as if it were almost admirable. And while criticising the US Government for not spending enough money on public education about sexually-transmitted diseases, she makes clear that the message should be about ‘safe sex’ using condoms, without any mention of monogamy or abstinence.
For somebody so obviously talented, it is a pity that Laurie Garrett did not edit the book to one-third its size to give a more focussed and enjoyable read. There is enough content to have produced three fantastically readable books. Instead we have a text that is so packed with information and opinion that it is hard to see the wood for the trees.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Jul 2011 10:57:03 BDT
Dr. Zook says:
So in essence you are saying that she put so much information in the book that it confused you?

Rather than blame what is an excellent, well researched and well written book; why don't you get some treatment for your A.D.D?

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Feb 2014 17:05:33 GMT
Dog Star says:
Sorry Dr.Zook,your suggestion that Mr. Cartwright seeks treatment for A.D.D. illustrates the fact that you have misunderstood his intelligent and quite probing review.
I wholeheartedly agree with Cartwright that the political leanings of an author should not intrude in a book unless the subject matter demands it.
Personally I would also not be overly interested in the detailed descriptions of the scientists untiring heroics.

I am fascinated by the subject of microbes, emerging and re-emerging diseases, and we all know that the world has by now become a global village, hence an enterprising microbe now has a vast and varied selection of hosts....

I believe Cartwright has presented a well balanced critique, and I thank him for saving me the time and money involved in ordering a book which I would have found more irritating then interesting.

Personally, I am a bit tired of authors pontificating how governments should do more, and I can't fault Cartwright's view about the author's treatment of homosexuality.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Feb 2014 11:07:43 GMT
Thank you, Dog Star, for your kind and supportive comment.
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Location: Ilford, Essex, England

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