Customer Review

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Looking for a virology primer? Look elsewhere., 9 July 2013
By 
This review is from: The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age (Kindle Edition)
Had I any kind of gift for biology, I'd've wanted to become a virologist. Viruses are genuinely fascinating, for all kinds of reason. So I was quite looking forward to this - the promise of an accessible guide to the science was tempting.

However, this is really rather disappointing. For one thing, notwithstanding the title, viruses attract surprisingly little authorial attention; Wolfe obfuscates by talking about "microbes", a good many of which aren't viruses at all. At best, then, he's talking about epidemiology for the most part. Fine, but a touch misleading.

Worse, though, is the way that he so frequently falls into the trap of thinking that you can only write science for the layman if you dilute it with human interest stories. These get in the way - we get about 4 parts anecdote for every one part actual science, and that's simply not good enough. Even when he's ostensibly talking about science (and much of the time this amounts to self-ingratiating crap about his utterly wonderful colleagues), he's astonishingly trite. Chimpanzees don't share our dental hygeine standards! Proto-humans could cook, but it wasn't Michelin-star stuff! With insights like this, can a Nobel be far away?

Yes. Yes it can.

This might be the kind of thing that's required to keep American 16-year-olds happy, but it's really not good enough for anyone else. The more I read, the less I could help thinking of Lee and Herring's "When Things Get Knocked Over, Spill, or Fall Out of Cupboards" gag: this is a book by someone who desperately wants to be on the Discovery Channel, with slightly doomy music playing behind a very earnest but catatonically simple narration.

If you're an intelligent lay-reader who wants to learn something about virology, or even about epidemiology, there'd be worse places to start - "The Epic of Gilgamesh", or Derrida's "Writing and Difference" spring to mind - but there surely must be much better places, too.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Dec 2013 17:27:18 GMT
pymc says:
Thanks for the honest review, I've removed this from my wish list now. I was tempted by this, after reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston and Biohazard by Ken Alibek both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Posted on 8 Nov 2014 21:29:34 GMT
Perhaps you'd do us all a favor and point us in the right direction then?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jul 2015 22:03:50 BDT
Enzyme says:
No idea. I don't have to know what's good in order to know what isn't. I'm sure there must be something, though.
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