In The Viral Storm, award-winning biologist Nathan Wolfe tells the story of how viruses and human beings have evolved side by side through history; how deadly viruses like HIV, swine flu, and bird flu almost wiped us out in the past; and why modern life has made our species vulnerable to the threat of a global pandemic.
Wolfe's research missions to the jungles of Africa and the rain forests of Borneo have earned him the nickname "the Indiana Jones of virus hunters," and here Wolfe takes listeners along on his groundbreaking and often dangerous research trips - to reveal the surprising origins of the most deadly diseases and to explain the role that viruses have played in human evolution. In a world where each new outbreak seems worse than the one before, Wolfe points the way forward, as new technologies are brought to bear in the most remote areas of the world to neutralize these viruses and even harness their power for the good of humanity. His provocative vision of the future will change the way we think about viruses, and perhaps remove a potential threat to humanity's survival.
©2011 Nathan Wolfe (P)2011 Tantor
"By turns terrifying and comforting, The Viral Storm is a clear, riveting account of the threat of undiscovered viruses." (Mary Roach, author of Stiff)
I'm a nutcase biology nerd, specializing in insect life. I was worried the book would read as a fearful, sensationalized, bid for a sanitized existence. I was wrong. The book is totally fascinating; it's filled with gritty details of outbreaks, epidemics and hypotheticals that inspire daydreams (nightmares?). Viruses are described in enough detail to excite the interests of biologists, but not so complicated as to alienate that the layman epidemic enthusiast.
Nathan Wolf's description of his career evolution from a primate specialist to an authority on epidemiology was unexpected and inspiring. As a young entomologist, I am now wondering if I'm in the wrong field! Wolf brings to light the incredible microscopic world of microbes into focus and shows insane complexity. My enthusiasm, writing this review, echoes Wolf's obvious enthusiasm for the world of viruses, prions and other bugs.
You can tell that The Viral Storm is the culmination of a lifetime of study. And although Nathan Wolfe clearly has the ability to talk over your head, he rarely uses it. The book is obviously well researched and I felt it was entertaining without talking down to the audience. Although I would have liked to hear more about fringe viruses and possible disaster scenarios, he does a very good job explaining a couple of possible pandemic agents (with great information on HIV, Influenza, and a number of viruses you may never have heard of) and outlining how they might spread throughout the populous.
I have to say that this book is not a thrill ride though. It's more like watching a documentary than seeing a blockbuster. You will come away with a better understanding of diseases, how they spread, and possible systems to prevent pandemics (one part I though he devoted maybe too much time on). But it will not leave you on the edge of your seat.
Don't get me wrong though. I really enjoyed this audio book. If you are genuinely interested in viruses and their prevention I could not recommend this book more. But if you are looking more for
Couldn't recommend this enough to folks interested in emerging diseases. I learned a tremendous amount and the performance was also well-done and compelling. Skip "The Coming Plague" and go directly to this gem.
I loved the depth of the authors work and its implications. I am not a scientist but have always been interested in virology and this was wonderful. I have already listened to it 4 times… Highly recommended.
A very well written and interesting book down the same avenue as Guns, Germs and Steel. If you haven't read Guns Germs and Steel I would read that first.
Some fascinating stuff here well worth the read. There are some interesting conclusions you can draw if agree with Richard Dawkins work: The Selfish Gene.
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
As far as new research on viruses go, this book has it all. Not too technical, but gives you a very detailed overview of these devastating litle creatures! Highly recommend.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
If you're germophobic, this is a book you might want to skip. It explains the origins of microbes and how they spread, along with their evolutionary threats and potential epidemics. Terrifying, but I couldn't put it down.
If you are interested in viruses, and how pandemics start, this is a good listen. If you listen to this and Spillover (David Quammen) you'll be an armchair virologist/epidemiologist.
Very interesting and relevant subject, and the narrator made an excellent job. In some sections the pace was somewhat slow, but overall a fast, easy, entertaining and frightening read.
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
I scanned my bookshelf before I wrote this review. Carl Zimmer's "Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures" (2001), has a top shelf place that belies it's origins: I "borrowed" it from a JPL scientist who was more interested in his own biceps than the universe. Dr Nicholas P. Money's "Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard: The mysterious world of mushrooms, molds and mycologists" (2002) and "Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores: A Natural History of Toxic Mold" (2004) have truly honored places - Dr. Money loves mold like I love my kids, and he's got that dry, Monty Python wit to go with it.
Nathan Wolfe PhD's "The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age" (2012) was a natural fit. if it weren't for the current Ebola outbreak making everyone interested in pandemics, I would wondered just how well Audible knew me. Wolfe isn't as amusing as Money, but I don't think Wolfe aims to be, and I don't think Money can play the serious guy, no matter how deadly on point he is.
Wolfe discusses HIV/AIDS at length. As a virus, it's intriguing and horrifying. It's mutable and recombinant - but it's transmitted by intimate contact and blood, so it's a relatively contained epidemic. So is HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that causes genital warts in some variations - and cervical cancer in others.
Wolfe presciently addresses the current Ebola outbreak two years before it happened. Some might say that Wolfe was making a lucky guess in "The Viral Storm," but Wolfe wasn't guessing. He knew what was coming, period; and he got the who, what, where and why pretty much right, too. Well, Wolfe didn't have actual names for the "who" but he got the professions/jobs/work of those who first contracted Ebola right, and he definitely has the "how" down. Ebola will burn itself out eventually - it's an inefficient transmitter but lethal, burning through its hosts fairly quickly and killing more than half of those it infects. The question is how many will it kill this time?
What makes Wolfe's book truly scary is the cleverness of the viruses. HIV/AIDS hid its hosts, and it took years to develop a diagnostic test. At the beginning of the epidemic, an HIV+ person could unknowingly infect those he or she loved, not discovering the illness for years. And Ebola - it doesn't just kill, it takes the loved ones who care for the infected, too. Viruses are small, with very little genetic material - and some can combine with other viruses to make a lethal new microbe. It's as if viruses are sentient and bent on taking over the world.
It's a fascinating, challenging, and so very frightening listen.
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