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Publisher's Summary

A warm day in Dublin, a crowded street corner. Suddenly, a car-bomb explodes, killing and injuring scores of innocent people. From the second-floor window of a building across the street, a visiting American watches, helpless, as his beloved wife and children are sacrificed in the heat and fire of someone else's cause.

From this shocking beginning, the author of the phenomenal Dune series has created a masterpiece. The White Plague is a marvelous and terrifyingly plausible blend of fiction and visionary theme. It tells of one man's revenge, of the man watching from the window who is pushed over the edge of sanity by the senseless murder of his family and who, reappearing several months later as the so-called Madman, unleashes a terrible vengeance upon the human race.

John Roe O'Neill is a molecular biologist who has the knowledge, and now the motivation, to devise and disseminate a genetically carried plague - a plague to which, like those that scourged mankind centuries ago, there is no antidote, but one that zeroes in, unerringly and fatally, on women.

As the world slowly recognizes the reality of peril, as its politicians and scientists strive desperately to save themselves and their society from the prospect of human extinction, so does Frank Herbert grapple with one of the great themes of contemporary life: the enormous dangers that lurk at the dark edges of science. The White Plague is a prophetic, believable, and utterly compelling novel.

©2007 Frank Herbert; (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A tale of awesome revenge." (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
"A speculative intellect with few rivals in modern SF." (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.6 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • DJM
  • Franklin, TN USA
  • 03-09-09

Good story once through

The White Plague is a decent story, well told, with good narration. It's especially interesting for its portrayal of the terrorist mentality from the perspective of the 1970s and 80s, when the most commonly reported terrorist attacks were those of the IRA and the Palestinians.

Given the advances in genetic engineering since those days, I suspect that Herbert barely scratched the surface of what could be accomplished now by a brilliant, or even mediocre, genetic engineer, but I give him high grades for his vision of the future. Another aspect of the "let's knock off a huge percentage of the human race and see what happens" genre is how the aftermath is handled. What is the author's vision of the remolded world? Again, Herbert does a credible job imagining what things would be like and throws in some interesting twists. We are allowed to see the new world as it is walked by the protagonist. This could become tedious, but is instead well paced and interesting.

In the final analysis, however, I only give the book three stars. While the story is well told, I really didn't care a lot about any of the characters. For that reason, I was ready for the book to be over about two hours before it ended. I doubt that I will ever bother to listen to this book again, and that is something I really look for in audio books.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

The difference between sentiment and sentimental:

"The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following:
Sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a
rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when
swerving away from the rabbit hits a pedestrian."

Frank Herbert's The White Plague holds up remarkably well over the decades. I recently took a class in genetics and the plague the "Madman" creates seems completely plausible to me.

The story starts out with John Roe O'Neill in Ireland doing research when his wife and twins are blown up in an IRA bombing. He is a genetic engineer and in his grief he splits personalities and becomes the "Madman" John O'Donnell. He creates a disease that will kill only women but make all the men carriers. He tries to keep it in Ireland(the bombers), Great Britain(the cause of the strife),and Libya (the training ground), but it becomes impossible to contain.

The story shifts to the various scientists, governments and religious factions to see how they will all handle a world without women, or with women a scarcity, if they can find a cure in time.

The only parts of the story I disliked was the young woman in the tank and even the women left are all treated as "breeders" or conniving bitches. The best female character in the story was a scientist who dies early on.

Herbert's vision of life in a plague state is very plausible and frightening. The main theme of the book seems to be that we should fear knowledge and progress, as long as man is an imperfect beast.

Scott Brick does a wonderful job with the accents in his narration.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Maybe You Have to be 50 plus

to enjoy this story from 1983. It's a bit dated but that should not detract from the story.
I found it thoughtful and interesting and appreciated it's accuracy for it's time.
What people do when threatened with a worldwide plague is the subject and the characters responded much as I think they would have at the time.
Worth the time and credit.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Great book and not a rip off

I just finished this book a couple minutes ago, and I enjoyed it very much. This story is about a plague that only affects women. It doesn't seem to be like most of the other Frank Herbert books. That made it even more enjoyable and thought provoking.
The book I listened to right before this book was a Stephen & Owen King and it too coincidentally is about a plague that only affects women. The Herbert book was excellent and the King book was trash and seemed to be ripped off from The White Plague.

  • Overall
  • JH
  • 01-08-10

Topical for current times

While this book was written some years ago and thus sometimes is dated the subject matter is very topical for current times.

There is interesting investigations into the social consequences and reactions within the book.

Not up to the standard of Frank Herbert's other books but still worth listening to if the subject matter is of interest or wish to enjoy another Herbert book.

Scott Brick the narrator could perk his narration up however.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Timely and thought provoking

I have read many of Herbert's books. I found some of them good and others not so good. This book falls well within the "good" category.

Even though it was written over 20 years ago, its subject matter (systemic hatred, tribalism, terrorism, WMD, vengence, survival, redemption) addresses situations which could have been taken from today's headlines. I found it very thought provoking as well as entertaining.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Bonnie
  • Vacaville, CA, United States
  • 04-01-15

No Likable Characters; Boring

If you're a fan of Irish history and their hatred of the British (and each other); or of scientific technobable about molecular biology; or of politicians & world leaders eager to destroy each other, you MIGHT like this book. But there is not a single character that's likable or one to root for. Between few and far between interesting passages, there are unbearably long DULL passages. I'm about half-way through and have asked myself "Why am I listening to this?" several times. It's not the least bit entertaining. If it doesn't get better on my next commute-listen, I'm giving up, deleting it, and moving on to the next Monster Hunter International book. THOSE are entertaining! :-)

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Confounded

The storyline is OK but suffers from the confusion and stop/start noted by other reviewers. The real whammy however is Mr Brick's Irish accent. It is terrible and can only be equated with Owen Meanie's voice. Terrible - please Scott, restrict yourself to narrating in 'American'!!!

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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awesome

So glad to find this book on audible
Give it a listen its worth
Well done

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Thought Provoking

This would make a great TV mini series. It's not science fiction as much as its a cautionary tale...With a lot of musings on the nation of Ireland being its own worst enemy. The novel is a bit longer than it needed to be, while at the same time some plotlines could've been expanded. I also found the narrating by Scott Brick slow and overly dramatic.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • David
  • 04-09-09

It's long - very long!

This is only the second audiobook I've failed to listen to until the end - it's tedious and drawn out to the pont of one losing the will to live. If you're easily depressed then leave it well alone - it's not the story line so much , as the grinding unrelentless step by step crawl through the plot. You really will have beter things to do!!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Peter
  • 03-26-09

Excellent

I had only read the books Frank Herbert is arguably most famous for and I am pleased to say that he is a lot more than just Dune. A really excellent, thought-provoking book that I rattled through with pleasure, although the subject is obviously dark and apocalyptic. Well developed characters, especially the protagonist John O'Neil, who wreaks a horrible vengeance on those he sees as responsible for the death of his wife and children. This book is well-narrated though I must leave opinion as to the quality of the Irish accents (that are copiously employed by the narrator) to those better qualified than myself, being English. To my untrained ear, I found them perfectly acceptable, as were all the English characters that sounded like they were Eton-educated to a man, and all of them full of Harry Flashman roguery! Excellent, well-read, moving book - I will be reading more non-Dune FH.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linda
  • 03-17-09

Excellent Story line, But..........

This was my first time to listen to one of this author's books. The story was fantastic, totally believable in this day and age. I was hooked from the first page. The only thing that spoiled it for me was the reader's attempt at an Irish accent. Really, does he think we still live in small country cottages and eat nothing but potatoes? It was insulting to listen to. All the begosh and begorrah talk annoyed me so much. A pity really because it marred an otherwise brilliant listen, way up there with Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Would buy more, only if the reader was changed.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful