A brilliant piece of storytelling that spans an age so close to our times, but one that's nearly irretrievable in terms of our ordinary experience.
However - and this is a big however - Scott Brick's narration is SO syrupy, sing-songy, and melodramatic that I found it very difficult to listen to. Brick appears to be the favorite narrator of the audiobook world, but his delivery is so cloying that it actually undermines the drama native to the account of the 1918 epidemic. History doesn't need to be acted as though it were a radio melodrama.
I don't know what annoyed me most about listening to this audiobook - the extreme repetitiveness and heavy-handed foreshadowing of the text, or Scott Brick's over-the-top breathless narration. I was constantly being distracted from the very interesting information that the author was imparting by the very annoying way in which that information was being imparted. It's really too bad, because the topic is interesting and parts of the story well-told (when Barry (and Brick) were not waxing hyperbolic ). One significant problem I noted with an audio version of this book is that in many parts Barry will be quoting from a series of primary sources, each of which says much the same thing -his purpose is to show what the various media were reporting, or scientists saying, but without being able to see on the page that it is a series of quotes, and without introductory passages for each quote, it comes across as if the "repeat" button got stuck.
The narative style can be grating at times, but the underlying story is well told and it is fascinating. There is a bit too much emphasis on flawed historical figures that in the end don't factor into the story. The ending is strong, highlighting the severity of the problem and the inadequacy of our preparations.
A good beach book.
This really is a very interesting book that covers a lot of ground but does so clearly and concisely. With a story like this I’d imagine it is hard to decide what to keep in and leave out, and I think that is well done here. I work in public policy in this area (public health) and have been glad I read this on a number of occasions. It most definitely educated me on a topic that translates to today on a number of levels – not just flu.
As a history book, it’s not high drama and ends up a bit dry in a few places – but I did find it all interesting.
Avid Listener of Audible
The book was good; but you had to wait to really get to the meat of the story. The author painstakingly sets up the players (scientists and doctors) in the book. Sometimes it can lead your mind to wander. He also tends to repeat basic premises throughout the book, which I got the first time. There are very interesting parts though, so I would not say it's a waste of time, just a bit wordy.
The first half of this book is fantastic, I learned so much about american medical/scientific history that I had no idea about. It was really fascinating, well written and I found it riveting and suprising. He weaves a seamless connection between the history of the US medical establishment, the United States in WWI and the science of infectious diseases.
Unfortunately the second half is just way too long, he should have stopped writing and called it good. I am still recommending it, but when you start getting bored with the endless descriptions of the search for the disease, you can just skip to the last chapter and wrap it up.
Listening to this book was like unpacking a shipping crate of delicate glassware - it had a lot of filler but you'd uncover an occassional piece of crystal. The detailed history of medical education and the development of scientific medicine were very interesting, though unexpected. The narratives about governments struggling to deal with the pandemic were instructive. The biographies were good. The voluminous and repetitive statistics and editorial commentary were unbearable. I gave up.
This is a fascinating book that ties together the development of American medicine in the early 20th century and an exhaustive look at the 1918-9 influenza epidemic. I learned a lot as the author gave a detailed background on medical research and its successes and failures prior to the pandemic. He sometimes gets carried away with his prose and goes into more detail than I wanted on some of the medical biograpies, but it was still very interesting. The narration is good and the author's research on the topic seems to be top-notch (though one of the problems with audio books is that it is hard to flip to the back of the book to check the endnotes or even the bibliography). It is a long read, but if you have a real interest in the subject, it is one that will educate and provoke a lot of thought about how we would deal with a similar pandemic today.
I have mixed feelings about this book. The narrator does an excellent job, and kept me listening after I would have quit. The book is excruciatingly slow to get to the meat of the story, the influenza outbreak. I read a lot about infectious disease, and some of the books are slow and/or dry, but this one was worse by far. The first hours are just back ground stuff, in great detail, history of John Hopkins, history of medical degrees, doctors, researchers, down to how they dressed and looked and spoke, where they lived, how they rented rooms from, who their friends were, how those friendships changes. Quite frankly - I DON'T CARE! I want to know about the flu epidemic! Any pertinent back ground, what little was important, could have been given in a few paragraphs, a few pages at the very most, and I'm not exaggerating. Not at all. I kept looking at the time, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3.5 hours, and still this book had gone no where! I finally put the speed on fast. I was greatly tempted just to fast forward, but was afraid to miss anything that was actually about the supposed subject of the book, you know, the Great Influenza that is the TITLE of the book. In addition, I found the frequent and blatant American elitism extremely annoying. The author is very condescending about non-American medical professionals, institutions, colleges and researchers even though the early American medical degrees are described as nothing more than a certificate for attending a few lectures while other countries had actual colleges and real medical degrees. It is also clearly stated that these American researchers built upon work already done by foreign researchers. Statements such as "american doctor/researcher such and such was THE BEST in the WHOLE WORLD or the leader in such and such field in of the whole world. It got old and tiresome really quickly.
Once you get past the beginning fluff (literally hours) and get used to or ignore the rather heavy handed america elitism, the books gets more on topic and was more interesting. Though the narrator does a great job, I wish I had read this one so I could have skimmed through the beginning fast and easy instead of wasting hours of listening time.
If the narrator could have been way less dramatic and the author would not have talked about the entire life history if EVERY single researcher or scientist.
Way too dramatic and slow. It was like he was reading Shakespeare.
The entire first half if the book. I would have left out all the info on the researchers lives and just focused on the actual influenza outbreak.