The End of October
In this riveting medical thriller--from the Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author--Dr. Henry Parsons, an unlikely but appealing hero, races to find the origins and cure of a mysterious new killer virus as it brings the world to its knees.At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When Henry Parsons--microbiologist, epidemiologist--travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe: an infected man is on his way to join the millions of worshippers in the annual Hajj to Mecca. Now, Henry joins forces with a Saudi prince and doctor in an attempt to quarantine the entire host of pilgrims in the holy city... A Russian émigré, a woman who has risen to deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security, scrambles to mount a response to what may be an act of biowarfare... already-fraying global relations begin to snap, one by one, in the face of a pandemic... Henry's wife Jill and their children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta... and the disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions--scientific, religious, governmental--and decimating the population. As packed with suspense as it is with the fascinating history of viral diseases, Lawrence Wright has given us a full-tilt, electrifying, one-of-a-kind thriller.

The End of October Details

TitleThe End of October
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 28th, 2020
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139780525658658
Rating
GenreFiction, Thriller, Science Fiction, Mystery Thriller

The End of October Review

  • Denise
    January 1, 1970
    Hello readers -- I rarely give 5 stars to a fiction book but this one completely blew me away! To say that it is prescient and timely is an understatement. If you have a desire to really understand what is going on in the world right now, this is a novel that you cannot afford to miss! It is shocking and absorbing with so much information that I can't even relay it in a review. I was overcome with so many emotions as I read this and I think it is one that every sentient being on the planet Hello readers -- I rarely give 5 stars to a fiction book but this one completely blew me away! To say that it is prescient and timely is an understatement. If you have a desire to really understand what is going on in the world right now, this is a novel that you cannot afford to miss! It is shocking and absorbing with so much information that I can't even relay it in a review. I was overcome with so many emotions as I read this and I think it is one that every sentient being on the planet cannot afford to miss this year.It starts with a few cases in an Indonesian camp set aside for Muslims with HIV. Termed the Kongoli virus, this is a killer unlike anything seen since the pandemic Spanish Flu of 1918. As it infects the entire world, there are only a few who understand what has happened and its ramifications. Doctor and epidemiologist, Henry Parsons, is one of those few. His history is unusual, he's gone around the globe fighting epidemics of horrific proportion. "Science knows no borders, nor does disease -- especially a disease that can literally fly across international boundaries." This novel explores the nature of a virus unlike any that has occurred in recent human history and its aftermath is beyond chilling. "Disease was more powerful than armies. Disease was more arbitrary than terrorists. Disease was crueler than human imagination." The entire world is under attack and there is no treatment for the scourge affecting the world population. There are no spoilers here but I urge you to read this chilling story of a world in ruins.The writing and research involved in this novel are of epic proportions. The science, the human component, the political fallout are all so vividly described. If you only read one book this year, I urge you to pick up this one. I know it's going to be tough as you sit in self-quarantine lock-down with little information on our own situation with COVID-19, but the message within is extremely powerful and must be communicated. Don't be complacent. "But nature is not a stable force. It evolves, it changes, and it never comes complacent." Our way of life, our civilization, our future depends on us getting a handle on these organisms and saving humanity. This is real. And I realize this is a work of fiction, but it is so eerily close to what is happening now that it totally petrified me. Maybe you don't have the stomach or nerve to read this now while you are sitting at home in isolation and worrying about your family and your job, but I'm telling you that our lives are now entering into the phase of nightmare and this book puts it all out there.Thank you to NetGalley and Alfred A. Knopf Publishers for this e-book ARC to read, review, and highly recommend. DO NOT MISS IT.https://www.amazon.com/review/R3L5AZZ...
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  • Jessica Jeffers
    January 1, 1970
    Most advance copies of books include a letter from the editor or publicist explaining what's so great about the book. This one includes a letter from the author that starts: "I pray that the events depicted in The End of October never happen. But could they?"This book was obviously conceived and written before the current pandemic began, but its timing is chilling given what Lawrence Wright was able to predict regarding what we are experiencing. His predictions are not that shocking, though, Most advance copies of books include a letter from the editor or publicist explaining what's so great about the book. This one includes a letter from the author that starts: "I pray that the events depicted in The End of October never happen. But could they?"This book was obviously conceived and written before the current pandemic began, but its timing is chilling given what Lawrence Wright was able to predict regarding what we are experiencing. His predictions are not that shocking, though, because this book was thoroughly researched and Wright was producing a story that many immunologists and medical professionals knew could happen. Because of this, The End of October often feels like a well-written piece of narrative nonfiction and that's where its greatest strengths lie. The Kongoli virus described here is hemorrhagic, meaning it's more closely related to Ebola than to COVID-19, and it is spread from Indonesia to the rest of the world in part because of Muslim pilgrimages and avian migration. But there's a lot of scientific explanations that are relevant to the world in the spring of 2020. If this were nonfiction, it would be a 4- or 5-star read for sure. When it comes time for character development and tying a plot together, however, I found this book to be fairly lacking. The characters remain relatively one-dimensional and the subplots involving global politics—war between Iran and Russia, terrorism in the Middle East—sometimes feel forced into the overall narrative, especially early when it's not clear why Wright is including these elements. I don't think this book would be particularly notable if it was not being coincidentally published amidst the very situation it describes, but reading it while in quarantine was definitely a unique experience.
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  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars. Lawrence Wright is an esteemed journalist and author. Among his many honours is his Pulitzer Prize for the non-fiction book, The Looming Tower about the rise of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11. This is a meticulously researched book in the form of a novel. It contains much factual information about historic epidemics and their rampage through the worlds population and the social, political and economic aftermath. It also provided details of cyberattacks, bio-warfare and experimentation 4.5 stars. Lawrence Wright is an esteemed journalist and author. Among his many honours is his Pulitzer Prize for the non-fiction book, The Looming Tower about the rise of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11. This is a meticulously researched book in the form of a novel. It contains much factual information about historic epidemics and their rampage through the worlds’ population and the social, political and economic aftermath. It also provided details of cyberattacks, bio-warfare and experimentation with pathogens. Written before the present COVID pandemic, the author displays a mastery of historic details and scientific information. This is a chilling, prophetic novel forecasting what is happening now all over the world. The Kongoli virus described in this work of fiction is more deadly than the fearsome present Coronavirus. The amount of information early in the book was overwhelming. I felt that the character of Dr. Henry Parsons was only there to connect parts of the narrative and move the story along. Dr. Henry is sent to Indonesia by WHO. He is considered the leading epidemiologist in infectious diseases. There has been an outbreak of a disease of unknown origin in an Indonesian camp killing dozens of young men. Members of Doctors Without Borders have also died. It was evident that a coverup of the disease was underway. Dr. Henry was initially refused entrance and told the men were terrorists who were executed. When Dr. Henry finally examines the dead and dying, he realizes that this is a new, unknown viral disease. It has characteristics of the Coronavirus but is also similar to Ebola which manifests itself by hemorrhagic fever, bleeding from the eyes and other parts of the body while the lungs dissolve. The Kongoli pandemic moves from Indonesia to Mecca at the time of the annual hajj. Despite efforts to contain it, there are many deaths. Pilgrims returning to their home countries before the quarantine is enforced spread the contagion. It is also being transported by avian migration. We see the horrific symptoms of the disease through the eyes of Dr. Henry Parsons. The borders of Saudi Arabia are closed and planes grounded. Dr. Henry is a small man, bent and deformed by rickets and using a cane. He has a loving family in Atlanta and is desperate to return to them. This is impossible since the country is in lockdown. He becomes friendly with Majid, a doctor and Saudi Prince. He and Dr. Henry discuss philosophy, religion, and how to best deal with the disease. Henry reveals to Majid the shocking truth of his young boyhood and how he developed rickets, a story he has never told anyone. Partway through the book, the story becomes character-driven. Dr. Henry and his family become compelling, well-developed characters. The heroic Majid helps Henry escape the country. He begins the ordeal of making his way back home to his family. America, by this time, is in desperate condition. Millions have died. The president and vice-president resemble Trump and Spence. There is disharmony within the government and many politicians have died. The electricity, phones and internet are down. Looters and criminal gangs are roaming mostly empty cities, food is scarce, hoarders have emptied stores. There are rumours that the virus has been engineered as a weapon, and Russia is blamed for cyberattacks causing the loss of power. Some political figures are demanding war, either by nuclear attacks or germ warfare. Survivors are urged to practice social distancing, and there is a prediction that a new wave of the disease will be coming.There is a villainous character, Dr. Jurgen, who once worked with Dr. Henry, and has much influence. The fear, stress, and tribulations of Dr. Henry’s family, left on their own, play a major part in the story. Will they be safe in all the turmoil? Will he find his family again in the fractured, bankrupt country? This is a frightening, riveting story that provides the reader with a better understanding of virus-borne diseases. Like in our present pandemic, there was great pressure in the story to quickly find a cure and to make an effective serum to innoculate people against the disease. There is also their scarcity of protective equipment. I hope that the author will write a book in the future chronicling the COVID-19 pandemic.
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  • Corbin Whitaker
    January 1, 1970
    I'm relieved that our current Coronavirus scare is nowhere near as bad as the Kongoli epidemic in this book; however, I'm left anxious about the horrific potential that could be found in future outbreaks of as-of-yet unknown diseases.
  • Donna Backshall
    January 1, 1970
    It's difficult to believe The End of October was written just before the *ish* hit the global fan a couple months ago. If I'd read The End of October, say, last fall, I'd have said "Cool speculative fiction, but wow, people wouldn't suck that bad in a crisis, would they?" Now I'm just nodding and thinking "Yep. That happened. And that too. We didn't measure up any better."Lawrence Wright pretty much nailed the political finger-pointing and lack of preparedness, the world economy deterioration, It's difficult to believe The End of October was written just before the *ish* hit the global fan a couple months ago. If I'd read The End of October, say, last fall, I'd have said "Cool speculative fiction, but wow, people wouldn't suck that bad in a crisis, would they?" Now I'm just nodding and thinking "Yep. That happened. And that too. We didn't measure up any better."Lawrence Wright pretty much nailed the political finger-pointing and lack of preparedness, the world economy deterioration, the fear, the cover-ups, the shameful selfishness, everything. We know how realistic this book is and how well Wright predicted the world's reaction to a pandemic because IT JUST HAPPENED AND IT'S STILL HAPPENING. We didn't experience (yet?) the population decimating extreme of his book -- since Kongoli launches from a massive pilgrimage to Mecca and spreads by those pilgrims to every populated area on the planet in the blink of an eye -- but still, it rings all too true. Almost four million times true, and very definitely still counting.I need time to absorb this. I blazed through this book, the bulk of it yesterday and today, because I couldn't put it down. Absolutely marking this as one of this year's favorites, and possibly will need to re-read. There's a lot to learn here.
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  • Proustitute
    January 1, 1970
    ... shelter in place, wash your hands, dont go out in public unless vitally necessary, and, if you do, wear a mask and sanitary glovesWas this just the way it was going to bethe powerful, the rich, and the celebrated would be saved Of course this was how it was bound to be. This is the country weve become. If we werent currently living through this novels speculative world of a global coronavirus pandemic, Im not really sure Lawrence Wrights The End of October would be of much interest: the ... shelter in place, wash your hands, don’t go out in public unless vitally necessary, and, if you do, wear a mask and sanitary gloves…Was this just the way it was going to be—the powerful, the rich, and the celebrated would be saved… Of course this was how it was bound to be. This is the country we’ve become. If we weren’t currently living through this novel’s speculative world of a global coronavirus pandemic, I’m not really sure Lawrence Wright’s The End of October would be of much interest: the characters are one-dimensional; the plot meanders, with long diatribes on infectious diseases, historical and research examples; and there are too many threads Wright attempts to weave together—the pandemic, conflict in the Middle East, the United States’ tense relationship with Russia—which seem to go nowhere in the end.But this is not the sort of novel that requires the reader to care about its characters, or their fates. It holds readers’ interests simply because we’re currently in the same situation as the characters are; while some may prefer escapist literature during a time like this, others are consoled by fact—there’s a reason why Dr. Anthony Fauci is something of a national treasure right now in America. And this is the strength of Wright’s work, which speaks more to his skill in research and his background as a journalist than his nonexistent talent as a novelist: he provides us with facts, with historical examples, studies done in 1918 with the so-called Spanish flu, examples from the Ebola outbreak. While mainstream news has made and drawn such parallels, it’s in a more general sense; Wright provides a lot of case studies, precarious treatments histories, and situates his imagined coronavirus pandemic within such factual and epidemiological truths.Had The End of October been published at another point in time, without COVID-19 causing global panic, anxiety, and stress, I doubt it would be receiving as much press as it currently is. The timing of the book’s publication is eerie and prescient, but it’s also reassuring just as it’s terrifying, and one who takes comfort in facts will find Wright’s novel the perfect read for our current times. Read it for the history of epidemics and pandemics, for the facts and historical information in which it is so well steeped; as a novel, however, it fails, but the nonfictional aspects are necessary to us all right now.If anyone should write the history of COVID-19 once (when?) this is all over, Wright should be the one: he damn well knows his stuff.
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  • Pamela
    January 1, 1970
    Gripping suspense as a new virus sweeps the world, world wide war looms, bio wars begin. Well-written and fast-paced. Most of all utterly, scarily, believable.
  • Bettie
    January 1, 1970
    Lawrence Wrights New Pandemic Novel Wasnt Supposed to Be Prophetic NYT Lawrence Wright’s New Pandemic Novel Wasn’t Supposed to Be Prophetic NYT
  • Candace
    January 1, 1970
    This is a contagion thriller, written by Lawrence Wright.What this means is that it is intelligent, well written, exciting, and presented in a way that is all too believable.Henry Parsons is a microbiologist, and epidemiologist who is sent by the World Health Organization to evaluate an outbreak of acute hemorrhagic fever in an internment camp for gay men in Indonesia. Indonesia's prejudice against LGBT people has already let the situation go on for too long, He's still in discovery mode when This is a contagion thriller, written by Lawrence Wright.What this means is that it is intelligent, well written, exciting, and presented in a way that is all too believable.Henry Parsons is a microbiologist, and epidemiologist who is sent by the World Health Organization to evaluate an outbreak of acute hemorrhagic fever in an internment camp for gay men in Indonesia. Indonesia's prejudice against LGBT people has already let the situation go on for too long, He's still in discovery mode when the disease makes a huge jump via his driver in Jakarta, who leaves to go to Mecca on Hajj.Imagine millions of people in one small area, praying together, performing rituals, When the Hajj is over, those infected people will spread out all over the globe when they return home. Henry teams with a Saudi prince who is a also an epidemiologist. They know the only thing they can do is try to keep everyone in Mecca until the disease burns itself off. You can imagine how this goes, and what happens afterward makes for tense, terrifying reading.Making an epidemiologist the central character seems to make a narrative a little stiff. There will be a lot of medical explanation, and no matter how well it is presented, it is what it is. Henry is a pretty practical guy, not young, not handsome, with a limp, but he does a lot of heroic flying all over the place that would put anyone into a jetlag coma. You like him, but you can't really care about him. He is superhuman, despite his unassuming demeanor. What the character of Henry does do is give us access to the upper working of medical and governmental agencies while they grapple with what has been unleashed. Not pretty, and perhaps the most frightening of all."The End of October" is a quality thriller, and all too possible. Wash your hands frequently--it's about all we can do.Thanks to Knopf and Netgalley for this review copy..
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  • Roxane
    January 1, 1970
    There may be spoilers ahead.I will say that a lot of research went into this book. This is not a lazily written book but it is poorly written. Sometimes, when a writer does a lot of research and wants the reader to know they are a credible expert on their subject, they make fiction seem like nonfiction. If you want a primer on pandemics (TIMELY), then sure, this book offers something useful. The problem is that there are just pages upon pages of what are, essentially, lectures on pandemics, There may be spoilers ahead.I will say that a lot of research went into this book. This is not a lazily written book but it is poorly written. Sometimes, when a writer does a lot of research and wants the reader to know they are a credible expert on their subject, they make fiction seem like nonfiction. If you want a primer on pandemics (TIMELY), then sure, this book offers something useful. The problem is that there are just pages upon pages of what are, essentially, lectures on pandemics, vaccines, biological warfare, US Russian relations, etc. It's interesting that this book was written well before the coronavirus because so much of it is prescient. Wright did a good job of anticipating what might happen in a global pandemic and unfortunately, much of what he predicts as part of the novel's plot, is already happening. There are some ludicrous plot holes. The protagonist, Henry, is one of the most important epidemiologists in the world and no government can get him a flight back to the US? Really? He works for the CDC, and again, is super important, but he can't make sure his family is secure? Sometimes his disability gets in the way, sometimes it is completely forgotten in the narrative. He pretends to convert to Islam because, well, reasons. And girl, I guess. And then after hundreds of pages, he wraps up the ending by skipping past like ten scenes we needed to see to understand the ending. O M G. Sir! What? This is not my area of expertise but the depiction of disability seems realllly problematic. There are some confounding flashbacks that are not well tied to the present day narrative. There are shifts in POV to characters who are never developed. So much is happening that is not good.A character will do something, and then the author will explain why that character did that thing even though it is always, always, patently obvious. There are all these unnecessary and extensive expository ramblings. Nearly every scene ends with an editorial aside. It's kind of... shocking just how unfortunate some of the writing is. As a writer I take no pleasure in saying this because writing a book is hard work and, like I said, the amount of work that went into this book is plainly obvious. It just forgot that it was supposed to be a novel. Writing is hard.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    The End of October is a thriller following the medical, human, and geopolitical fallout from the advance of a new virus strain. The timing of the publication of this novel is uncanny! (during 2020 Coronavirus outbreak)I'm impressed by the level of scientific detail as well as the corresponding geopolitical dilemmas. I couldn't put it down! With thrillers, I don't often think about a particular novel much after reading it, but I keep thinking about what I would do if this situation actually The End of October is a thriller following the medical, human, and geopolitical fallout from the advance of a new virus strain. The timing of the publication of this novel is uncanny! (during 2020 Coronavirus outbreak)I'm impressed by the level of scientific detail as well as the corresponding geopolitical dilemmas. I couldn't put it down! With thrillers, I don't often think about a particular novel much after reading it, but I keep thinking about what I would do if this situation actually happened and how my community would fare. Overall, a top-notch page-turner. Thank you Net Galley for providing me with an advanced reader.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    This book suffers from identity issues. Is it a a Dan Brown knockoff? A morality story? A non-fiction of pandemics? A global survey of pandemic preparedness?It is all of these, yet so scattered that it is successful at being none of them.Our main character, Henry, is the greatest epidemiologist the CDC has even known, we also flit around perspectives to his family, and a high level Homeland Security staffer. In a fun twist, we also go back in time to an indeterminate period before Henry worked This book suffers from identity issues. Is it a a Dan Brown knockoff? A morality story? A non-fiction of pandemics? A global survey of pandemic preparedness?It is all of these, yet so scattered that it is successful at being none of them.Our main character, Henry, is the greatest epidemiologist the CDC has even known, we also flit around perspectives to his family, and a high level Homeland Security staffer. In a fun twist, we also go back in time to an indeterminate period before Henry worked at CDC. We also have time jumps in the main narrative to the point that I have no idea how long any particular event takes.The characters have little personality and no arcs to speak of. There are many villains, which fits with the post 9/11 America we know - every outsider is here to upend American Imperialism and fear drives policy (instead of models and common sense). Like a story with a global pandemic and that ostensibly has a main character doesn't also need to be on the cusp of war with Iran and Russia, have an electromagnetic pulse type deal bring down techonolgy, nuke troubles, "Don't Tread on Me" type farmers, etc etc and so on. The book could have all of these things if it had been episodic in instructure (like World War Z), but by trying to center everything around Henry and his family these sprawling concerns just make for tonal dissonance.We also get info dumps from Henry about the history of pandemics and viruses - and I think they're supposed to make the reader go "oooooh how clever", but instead cause the action to come to a halt.I think the publisher was wise to move up the publication date, and I think people will take comfort in the story - Covid 19 isn't this dramatic, if nothing else. I just wish more time had been taken to figure out what this book wanted to be. It could've been a great Dan Brown knockoff, but it aspires to more to its detriment.Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss for providing me with a copy for review.
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  • Karolina
    January 1, 1970
    A prescient, important, and absorbing read, particularly considering that the human world is presently facing a pandemic. I really enjoyed the scientific and medical aspects, although there were some time jumps through the book which disordered me slightly. The geo-political factors and warfare, as well as the human paranoia, panic, and sincere lack of community spirit, were thought-provoking and frightening. The undertone of the book in my opinion: (1) practice respiratory hygiene; (2) consume A prescient, important, and absorbing read, particularly considering that the human world is presently facing a pandemic. I really enjoyed the scientific and medical aspects, although there were some time jumps through the book which disordered me slightly. The geo-political factors and warfare, as well as the human paranoia, panic, and sincere lack of community spirit, were thought-provoking and frightening. The undertone of the book in my opinion: (1) practice respiratory hygiene; (2) consume a (mostly) vegetarian/vegan diet and reduce factor farming; (3) stop deforestation and climate change. All practices of which may permit a progressive human civilisation to live symbiotically alongside a thriving natural environment, without a catastrophic high-mortality contagion ripping through the midst - a message that we might ought to be all listening to.
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  • Nicole Garton
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely astounding, the prescience! If you love Lawrence Wrights long form investigative writing for the New Yorker or his non-fiction books, you will find his novel equally if not even more gripping. 11 out of 5 stars, I cannot recommend it highly enough. (I should mention I won an ARC thanks to a Goodreads giveaway which I learned about because Im following Wrights author profile). I usually avoid contemporary fiction because I prefer non-fiction, but gave this book a chance because I enjoy Absolutely astounding, the prescience! If you love Lawrence Wright’s long form investigative writing for the New Yorker or his non-fiction books, you will find his novel equally if not even more gripping. 11 out of 5 stars, I cannot recommend it highly enough. (I should mention I won an ARC thanks to a Goodreads giveaway which I learned about because I’m “following” Wright’s author profile). I usually avoid contemporary fiction because I prefer non-fiction, but gave this book a chance because I enjoy Wright’s style and research so much. Well! This book reads much like Wright’s non-fiction: approachable, personal inroads into otherwise Byzantine fields as diverse as marine virology, prehistoric microbiology, American religious cults, pilgrimages to Mecca, the Saudi Royal Family, secret U.S. government agencies, Teddy Roosevelt in Brazil, life aboard a submarine, animal testing, eco fascism, the Trump presidency, polar bears in Russia, invasive kudzu plants of the American South East, oh, and coronaviruses and pandemics, including the 1918 outbreak of Spanish Flu. I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH, and actually much of what I learned has informed my understanding of our current coronavirus pandemic and what to be demanding of our elected officials. Though the book is TERRIFYING I have found the educational aspects really comforting as I have been able to understand and make sense of what we are now learning we are facing in our current predicament. Also, this book is a novel, and reads like a thriller. Each chapter I was on the edge of my seat, and the bread crumbs of what Wright leaves for the reader to find constitute a masterclass in suspense, mystery, and intrigue. Though there are real-life people depicted and mentioned throughout, the invented characters are fully formed, full of nuance, secrets, and humanity. I loved it start to finish and have been recommending to everyone I know!
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  • Sonya
    January 1, 1970
    The End of October is a wonderful exciting thriller. I'm sure the book was written well before the coronavirus pandemic, but it really gave a terrifying look at the realities of contagious disease and epidemics. Wright throws a lot of scientific information at the reader which is both interesting and engaging; however, at times the amount of it seemed to overtake the plot. In addition, some of the subplots regarding politics and terrorism seemed a bit clunky when compared to the story arc. The End of October is a wonderful exciting thriller. I'm sure the book was written well before the coronavirus pandemic, but it really gave a terrifying look at the realities of contagious disease and epidemics. Wright throws a lot of scientific information at the reader which is both interesting and engaging; however, at times the amount of it seemed to overtake the plot. In addition, some of the subplots regarding politics and terrorism seemed a bit clunky when compared to the story arc. Overall I really enjoyed the book. The thriller was gripping, interesting, and almost educational.A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review The End of October.
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  • Rachel Brown
    January 1, 1970
    I have read a few pandemic books so far this year, and this one was by far the most disturbing. And very creepy given that it just came out, so was written before all of this, and released right now. That said, if it had been released a year ago, it wouldn't have all the hype. It's just the terrifying similarities to reality. The book is probably 100 pages longer than necessary, and most of the characters aren't quite developed well enough. Overall, I think it was just a bit too unsettling for I have read a few pandemic books so far this year, and this one was by far the most disturbing. And very creepy given that it just came out, so was written before all of this, and released right now. That said, if it had been released a year ago, it wouldn't have all the hype. It's just the terrifying similarities to reality. The book is probably 100 pages longer than necessary, and most of the characters aren't quite developed well enough. Overall, I think it was just a bit too unsettling for this present time, but still pretty good
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  • Michael McEvoy
    January 1, 1970
    An eerily timed contagion thriller. Quite a few chapters had a sense of urgency that makes you want to keep reading. There were also some side storylines, but I found these less interesting. I definitely thought the human reaction was realistic, and it shows that people/countries will keep trying to one-up each other, to the point of destruction.The main character seemed to have no emotional attachment to his wife. Oh and specifically mentioning that Taylor Swift was killed by the virus... not An eerily timed contagion thriller. Quite a few chapters had a sense of urgency that makes you want to keep reading. There were also some side storylines, but I found these less interesting. I definitely thought the human reaction was realistic, and it shows that people/countries will keep trying to one-up each other, to the point of destruction.The main character seemed to have no emotional attachment to his wife. Oh and specifically mentioning that Taylor Swift was killed by the virus... not necessary.
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  • Jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    Well, that was terrifying.Very well written and researched, and an all-around fascinating story. My only nit to pick is the extended timeline in which the story takes place. A date at the top of each chapter would help with the jumps ahead, which were sometimes days, weeks, or months.
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    Why would I be reading a piece of fiction about a killer pandemic gripping the world in the middle of a real life nightmare terrorizing the world? First, because it is written by Lawrence Wright, a journalist of exceptional skill who is best known for chronicling the rise of al-Qaeda and the glide path to 9/11. Second, because I thought it might give me some insight into what we are going through right now. Both reasons turned out to be justified. Wright's tale of how a virus known as Kongoli is Why would I be reading a piece of fiction about a killer pandemic gripping the world in the middle of a real life nightmare terrorizing the world? First, because it is written by Lawrence Wright, a journalist of exceptional skill who is best known for chronicling the rise of al-Qaeda and the glide path to 9/11. Second, because I thought it might give me some insight into what we are going through right now. Both reasons turned out to be justified. Wright's tale of how a virus known as Kongoli is launched by pilgrims at the Hajj in Saudi Arabia is a bit like reading an early script for the tragedy now encircling the globe.Eerily, such concepts as "attack rate" and social distancing -- now part of our everyday lexicon -- appear in this book. I suppose there is some perverse consolation in that Kongoli makes Covid-19 seem like hay fever by comparison. And Wright introduces a significant geopolitical factor into his story, summoning all the history of biowarfare and experimentation with pathogens. So what might seem like literary masochism actually turned out to be helpful, if not anything like soothing. Wright's prescience is remarkable, but one can't help thinking that it was never a matter of 'if' with our pandemic, only when.
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  • Peter
    January 1, 1970
    Lawrence Wright's The End of October (2020) is a grisly and prescient tale of a global pandemica coronavirus out of Africa called Kongoli. This coronavirus, like previous flu-related viruses, is transmitted between humans, birds (avian flu), and pigs (swine flu). The book is not just a prescient contribution and a good read, it is a mélange of modern themes of terror: a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran leading to Russian and U. S. involvement, cyber warfare from Russia, and fears of nuclear Lawrence Wright's The End of October (2020) is a grisly and prescient tale of a global pandemic—a coronavirus out of Africa called Kongoli. This coronavirus, like previous flu-related viruses, is transmitted between humans, birds (avian flu), and pigs (swine flu). The book is not just a prescient contribution and a good read, it is a mélange of modern themes of terror: a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran leading to Russian and U. S. involvement, cyber warfare from Russia, and fears of nuclear bombs. It also gives us a history of past pandemics that stands as a warning for the future.[The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic is so far nowhere near Wright's imagination, and it is not even the worst killing season yet in the U.S. in recent history—according to the CDC in 2017-2018 there were 79,000 flu-related deaths, 960,000 flu hospitalizations, and 45,000,000 flu infections. To date (May 2, 2020) there have been 65,000 recorded U. S. coronavirus deaths and an estimated 1,125,000 infections.]The BeginningHenry Parsons is an internationally noted epidemiologist working at the UN. His misshaped body, the result of rickets in childhood, hides a brilliant and kind mind. He was the leader of the effort to quell the Ebola crisis in 2014 and is at the leading edge of everything viral. We meet him at a conference in Geneva where he hears of a "hot spot" near Kongoli, Indonesia: 47 deaths, all within a small area. He jets off to Kongoli and is driven to the site by a local named Bambang Idris. On the way he learns that Bambang is excited about his trip in late July to Mecca for the hajj. When he arrives Bambang enters the site with him, then quickly leaves.Parsons examines some of the corpses at Kongoli and comes up clueless—the indications include cyanosis, an oxygen deprivation associated with cholera that leaves the bodies a blue color; lungs melted into mush because they drowned in their own fluids: as we now know, among the chief killers in a coronavirus infection is a "storm" of cytokines released by the body to fight the infection, a storm that drowns the victim. The mix of indications fits no known viruses; this is a new and deadly variation in the coronavirus family. The Kongoli site had been locked down: nobody can leave the place, including Parsons, until they've passed through a quarantine period. But one man has already left . . .Matilda ("Tildy) Nichinsky is the deputy secretary of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security; her expertise is cyberwarfare. We meet Tildy when she has a clandestine meeting with Tony Garcia, a journalist to whom she will feed information not allowed in the public domain. Garcia specializes in the Russian government's use of hacking organizations to generate fake news and cyberattacks. Among these organizations, dubbed "Bears," are "Fancy Bear" and "Cozy Bear." The Bears don't limit themselves to political hacking; they were also responsible for a 2017 hacking of a Saudi Arabian petrochemical plant. Prince Majid is a physician and Saudi Arabia's health minister. He is also a helicopter pilot whom we meet as he flies his old friend, Henry Parsons, released from the Kongoli site, over Mecca to observe the hajj. Parsons is there to find Bambang Idris, the only person to leave the Kongoli site pre-lockdown and a perfect candidate for Patient Zero now that he's among the millions of the faithful. As a non-Muslim, Parsons can't enter the city but Majid, a Muslim, can. Majid and his men thoroughly parse the records for the tent city assigned to Indonesians; they know where he Bambang should be, but he can't be found. No matter! Bambang had already spread his virus when, like all pilgrims, he kissed a particular stone in the Kaaba. Through this simple act of faith he transmitted his illness to thousands of fellow hajjis. Bambang has already died, but not from the virus—he was trampled to death in one of the hajj's well known pilgrim panics. Henry will learn of the pandemic's beginning when three cases of hemorrhagic fever are reported. And so it begins. Soon the hospitals in Mecca become quarantined, then the city itself, with millions of hajjis, is locked down. The MiddleThe scene shifts to a meeting of military and other officials in the White House. Chaired by Tilda Nichinsky, the meeting has two items on the agenda: a Russian agreement to provide military aid and backup to Iran in the event of war with Saudi Arabia, and a potential pandemic building in Saudi Arabia. The primary discussion is on the Russia-Iran issue but Lt. Cmdr. Jane Bartlett, a public health official, interrupts and says that the pandemic issue is far more important—if it develops as feared, global decimation will moot the Russia-Iran issue. The problem becomes of immediate importance because the hajj is about to end and three million Muslims will head home—about 27,000 of them on flights to the U. S.—where they will bring this unknown coronavirus and disperse it across their home countries. In other words, within a very few days this apparently local problem could go global, easily trumping the consequences of geopolitical conflict.Henry doesn't know that Jill, his wife, has died: there is a very sad scene with their twelve-year-old daughter, Helen, dragging her mother's body from the house to bury it in the back yard. Henry is not going back to the world he left. The pandemic that has now killed 10 million Americans—and this is just the first in a series of three expected waves of infection.Meanwhile, with Majid's help, Henry has found a way out of Saudi Arabia aboard the submarine USS Georgia. The USS Georgia is itself a hotbed of Kongoli: several sailors have died, as has the boat's doctor. A long journey confined in the vessel doesn't seem like a great idea, but it's his only option. While on the sub Henry discovers a way to protect the crew from Kongoli, making him the most popular civilian ever on a U. S. submarine. He has found a vaccination method, but it's only a stopgap measure.Trouble isn't an orphan! While the USS Georgia is in transit, war breaks out between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the Saudi attacks on the Iran-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen. Russia and the U. S. enter the conflict to protect their client states. Fleets are on the move, aircraft are in dogfights, military bases are bombed, the Saudi oilfields are ablaze, and the fear of nuclear escalation is rampant. The U. S. effectively blockades the Russian fleet and destroys its air cover. The President has died and the new President appoints Tildy as his National Security Advisor: her earlier recommendation to confront the Russians before they attack had been spot-on; Putin appears to have stopped his advances in Ukraine and his fleet returns to its bases. Tildy now recommends assassination of Putin and the President approves. But then the Russian Bears shut down the U. S. power grid, adding cyberwarfare to the toxic mix.The EndAs we read on, the world slips backward—homes are abandoned, communities are shattered, fields return to nature. Henry joins an old comrade to trace the origins of the virus—is it natural? Is it a Russian creation to destroy the U. S. and allow Russian advances in the West? You'll find the answer startling. The setback of civilization by centuries is the result of a bizarre source.
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  • Pam
    January 1, 1970
    The first few chapters of this book are riveting indeed, eerily prescient. Personally, I found the different threads/storylines a little distracting and far fetched. how many villains do we need? Who is the real villain? A scientist? Russia? Towards the end of the book found myself skimming through chaptersI think the book needed to be edited a bit (one chapter couldve been deleted in its entirety IMHO). The events that couldve made the ending more satisfying for me were not told, only assumed. The first few chapters of this book are riveting indeed, eerily prescient. Personally, I found the different threads/storylines a little distracting and far fetched. how many villains do we need? Who is the real villain? A scientist? Russia? Towards the end of the book found myself skimming through chapters—I think the book needed to be edited a bit (one chapter could’ve been deleted in its entirety IMHO). The events that could’ve made the ending more satisfying for me were not told, only assumed. Instead through the final pages I found myself saying “huh?” but was not motivated enough to reread for clarity.
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  • Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller
    January 1, 1970
    It has become common to refer to works of popular entertainment as ripped from the headlines, but in the case of New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wrights THE END OF OCTOBER, the converse is true. This terrifying account of a catastrophic influenza pandemic is eerily prescient about the worlds current war against the COVID-19 virus, bringing clarity to an understanding of some of the formidable obstacles were facing in navigating our way out of this crisis, while telling a vivid story.When Henry It has become common to refer to works of popular entertainment as “ripped from the headlines,” but in the case of New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright’s THE END OF OCTOBER, the converse is true. This terrifying account of a catastrophic influenza pandemic is eerily prescient about the world’s current war against the COVID-19 virus, bringing clarity to an understanding of some of the formidable obstacles we’re facing in navigating our way out of this crisis, while telling a vivid story.When Henry Parsons, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and a skilled “disease detective,” is dispatched by the World Health Organization to the Kongoli refugee camp in Indonesia to investigate the deaths from a hemorrhagic flu of 47 young Muslim homosexual men detained there, he soon realizes the world is perched on the precipice of a disaster. What turns a dangerous, but potentially containable, problem into a catastrophe is the departure of his Indonesian taxi driver for the annual Hajj, in Mecca, where he’ll join some three million Muslims on pilgrimage. It’s only a short step from there to worldwide contagion.THE END OF OCTOBER follows Parsons from Saudi Arabia to an American nuclear submarine in the Persian Gulf, back to the CDC, and to the Arctic Circle, as he desperately pursues some means of arresting --- even temporarily through the development of an antibody until a vaccine is developed --- the disease’s deadly spread. Alongside this well-researched account, Wright offers glimpses of the futile response of governments, including our own, struggling to cope with the societal impact of the Kongoli flu, a disease whose swift, sizable lethality makes COVID-19 look like an annoying summer cold.But much of what makes THE END OF OCTOBER so chilling is the feeling that Wright is transcribing conversations overheard today in the White House Situation Room, not inventing scenarios months ago in the quiet of his study. A sampling:Lieutenant Commander Jane Bartlett, from the Public Health Service, after explaining how the country is “running out of syringes, diagnostic test kits, gloves, respirators, antiseptics, all the stuff we need to treat patients and protect ourselves,” berates the vice president:“I know what you people want me to say, but that’s not my job, is it? I am supposed to be giving you information. Real information. What you do with it is your job. Now, if you had been doing your job and providing us with the resources we asked for, maybe we wouldn’t be sitting here sucking our thumbs while people are suffering and the economy is going to hell and the graveyards are filling up and all because people like you didn’t care enough about public health to pay attention to our needs.”Meanwhile, Wright depicts an American society determined to “reopen” and regain some semblance of normalcy after absorbing the initial wave of the virus, as Fox News commentators are “applauding the forceful actions of the administration for stopping the disease, citing the much-criticized travel ban,” but soon descending into anarchy as it becomes clear Kongoli is surging back in a more virulent form. In this apocalyptic scenario, he juxtaposes Parsons’ efforts to find an antidote for the contagion with his own family’s struggle to cope with the deteriorating conditions of daily life in Atlanta.True to the conventions of the genre, Wright’s novel includes an evil scientist, and an ambitious and unscrupulous national security advisor, among other villains. There are subplots about a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia and a Russian cyberattack. There’s even a cameo from the real-life Richard Clarke, the former national security official whose warnings about the threat of a 9/11-style attack went unheeded, a subject that Wright covered as a journalist in his Pulitzer Prize-winning THE LOOMING TOWER: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Wright’s detour into the virus’s origin story --- is it naturally occurring or manufactured in a laboratory? --- feels somewhat rushed, and not as compelling as the account of the pandemic’s devastating toll and the race to limit it.But Wright keeps the disastrous complications piling up, and the momentum of the novel flags only occasionally. Unlike some journalists who turn to fiction, his prose is refreshingly free of clichés, and he relies to a minimum on the chunks of exposition that will persuade any reader he has done his homework when it comes to subjects that include the natural history of viruses and daily life aboard a nuclear submarine.Do you think things can’t get worse as we tentatively emerge from shutdown in the spring of 2020? Lawrence Wright will paint a grisly picture of how they can. Much worse. THE END OF OCTOBER probably should come with a trigger warning for anyone suffering from anxiety over the current pandemic. The next time --- and as Wright makes clear, there most assuredly will be one --- our country faces a similar emergency, it might make sense to summon a novelist or two to the White House to help us formulate a more effective response.Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
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  • Michael Scott
    January 1, 1970
    To-do full review:About: The End of October: A Novel is Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright's take on the post-apocalypse genre. It tells the story of a pandemic started in Asia that devastates the world, is tamed, and then... I don't want to spoil the ending, which has an interesting (but not novel) twist. As a distinctive feature, it seems to be the only post-apocalyptic book written in the middle on a global pandemic.Overall, a good book that excels in procedural description, but lacks in To-do full review:About: The End of October: A Novel is Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright's take on the post-apocalypse genre. It tells the story of a pandemic started in Asia that devastates the world, is tamed, and then... I don't want to spoil the ending, which has an interesting (but not novel) twist. As a distinctive feature, it seems to be the only post-apocalyptic book written in the middle on a global pandemic.Overall, a good book that excels in procedural description, but lacks in quality of writing and storyline novelty. Wright did win his Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. (I did not like the relatively obvious references to the current pandemic.) What I liked, in some detail:+++ The background on pandemics and the procedures around addressing them is very good. Wright summarizes many credible elements. ++ The pandemic and its impact make for a good firat third of the story. (But then the story weakens.) The deaths, the scramble for a test, the quarantines and the impact on daily life, the chase after a vaccine or treatment, all these are carefully and credibly portrayed. So is the incompetence of the ruling class, and the heroic work of virologists and epidemiologists in both frontline and the lab. + The lead character, a scientist, is depicted with good nuance and acts credibly whenever the scene involves an actual scientific act. + Good twist at the end. (But not novel.)+ For the 2010s reader: Good diversity at the top. The scientist is male but has a dysmorphism and a difficult upbringing. The key political figure is a woman, whose professional acumen is on display. The key foreigner is a scientist who is deeply religious, and becomes aware of his privilege in the course of the story (and grows to address it). Plus, overall there are many examples of normal people doing normal things, so overall the focus on diversity does not seem forced. What I didn't like, in some detail:--- Although good in its first third, the story becomes cliche, and from around half until the end it loses punch. The action scenes and the submarine joyride don't really work as plot-devices. There are also many scenes difficult to believe after Henry leaves the Middle East. The storyline leading to the end is too short to be credible, and seems forced. --- A part that seems to have been added last-minute is a collection of situations that seem very close to the current pandemic, complete with President Dumb and his wrongful response. Unfortunately, only some of these help the story, and for this reader it's just too soon to make such references. (Note the situation around COVID-19 was known, or could have been, at least since early to mid-January 2020, and surely by February- - so it's easy to imagine some of this material could have been added by the author then.) -- The writing is competent. But novels do rely on wordsmith and text-magic, and here it just doesn't happen. - Unfortunately, the lead character also loses shine when involved in the second, and sub-par, half of the story. Henry disappears in the faster pace of the story, simply because he has nothing to offer outside the scientific context. Should not have been put elsewhere. - The good twist at the end is based on a common theme during the Cold War: that the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction will end with one side (typically Russia) would seem to take one step wrongly, and thus the other will retaliate, and then... well, then, something will go wrong and no no-one will survive. Mordecai Roshwald's Level-7 and Nevil Shute's On the Beach seem to exemplify this twist; the latter even uses seafaring technology as a prop.
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  • Evelyn
    January 1, 1970
    This much buzzed about novel hailed as being prescient of the Covid-19 pandemic proved to be a tremendous disappointment. With the authors background and expertise in many aspects of current affairs both nationally and internationally, it was surprising that the depiction of those aspects of the story were so cartoonish and lame. Although one normally suspends ones beliefs when reading a suspense or dystopian novel, or thriller, this book had storylines that defied logic, and were unbelievable. This much buzzed about novel hailed as being prescient of the Covid-19 pandemic proved to be a tremendous disappointment. With the author’s background and expertise in many aspects of current affairs both nationally and internationally, it was surprising that the depiction of those aspects of the story were so cartoonish and lame. Although one normally suspends one’s beliefs when reading a suspense or dystopian novel, or thriller, this book had storylines that defied logic, and were unbelievable. In fact much of the novel was lame. The story meandered and dragged on. In many instances there were lengthy digressions from the plot for no apparent reason other than to provide explanations that might have better been included as part of an epilogue to explain whether this could happen in real life. At times the story jumped from an event to an outcome, and then onto another event or outcome with no explanation of what transpired in between, and how one got from here to there or why. Multiple plot lines were developed with no true interconnection between them except for brief periods when the characters interacted for no good reason. Characters were poorly developed stereotypes. The principal characters were not likable. Even more perplexing was the introduction of multiple characters who appeared central to the plot, and were then abandoned for no good reason except that the author discarded that subplot, only to pop up later. One was the villain who was hinted at throughout the book. He appeared briefly at the end of the book, and appeared to have been selected as the villain after the real life one was hinted at and then abandoned along with those designating him as the villain.Finally someone should have proofread the book. There were typographical errors. One was on the first page of the book. A second was at another critical point in the story.This is a book that would not have been published without major revisions if the author were not well known. Too bad it wasn’t sent back for rewriting and revision. If it had, it might have been a far better book.
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    Im stuck at home during a global pandemic and what do I choose to read? A thriller about a global pandemic. But its good one, so believable and so filled with facts and scenarios that have come/are coming true. The first two thirds of the book is really great. I would say I couldnt put it down but I did in fact have to put it down because while I wanted to keep reading it was also ramping up my anxiety in this time of Covid-19. The last third devolves into a Hollywood thriller, and I fully I’m stuck at home during a global pandemic and what do I choose to read? A thriller about a global pandemic. But it’s good one, so believable and so filled with facts and scenarios that have come/are coming true. The first two thirds of the book is really great. I would say I couldn’t put it down but I did in fact have to put it down because while I wanted to keep reading it was also ramping up my anxiety in this time of Covid-19. The last third devolves into a Hollywood thriller, and I fully expect to watch the movie version of the book one day.The main character, Henry Parsons, suffered rickets as a child and has health issues and a limp. Think of him as a young Dr. Fauci, a leading expert on emerging diseases. He has a worried wife and young children who want him to come home, but he is called to travel all over the world as the threat grows.As I read The End of October I kept thinking of Donald Trump saying “Nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion.” People knew. LOTS of people knew. Lawrence Wright knew, and everyone he talked to researching this book knew. Grrr. The End of October does feel really well researched. I don’t know when it was written, but clearly well before the Covid-19 crisis arrived, and yet so much of what happens in the book has happened in real life – right down to the TP hoarding – or COULD happen in real life. Fortunately, the crisis in the book is much worse than the one we are currently experiencing (and let’s hope it stays that way). It’s also a bird flu, which as a birder made me very unhappy. Both domesticated and wild birds are slaughtered in the book. There are some twisty plot twists that remind you this is a book and not real life, but nothing seemed too outlandish. The end is sad but satisfying.It’s possible I was more engaged by this book now than I would have been at a different time. Still, if you love medical thrillers, I definitely recommend The End of October.I read an advance reader copy of The End of October. It is scheduled to be published in April 2020. Thank you to Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, and Baker & Taylor for the advance reader's edition.
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  • Jason Payne
    January 1, 1970
    More a 3½ stars, I think. As Wright has acknowledged in interviews, he began research and writing this 2020 novel a few years ago (prompted by a chat with Ridley Scott about Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road), way before Covid-19 and coronavirus became part of our everyday conversation. As such, The End of October is eerily prescient: an American epidemiologist is sent by the WHO to investigate an outbreak of a deadly flu-like pathogen in Indonesia, the bug gets out and soon More a 3½ stars, I think. As Wright has acknowledged in interviews, he began research and writing this 2020 novel a few years ago (prompted by a chat with Ridley Scott about Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road), way before Covid-19 and coronavirus became part of our everyday conversation. As such, The End of October is eerily prescient: an American epidemiologist is sent by the WHO to investigate an outbreak of a deadly flu-like pathogen in Indonesia, the bug gets out and soon enough there's a global pandemic, and all Hell breaks loose. No spoilers ahead, but suffice it say that Wright's story reflects WAY TOO MUCH of what we've seen here in the US and abroad over the past four months, and it's frankly disconcerting and disappointing that our response was so utterly predictable. There are a few twists and turns, none of them particularly surprising.I'm a fan of Wright's journalistic books: The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 and Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief are both excellent. This is the first of his novels I've read, and a literary stylist he isn't. The prose is often clunky, the story grinds to a halt more than a few times because it's time for more exposition, and as I said earlier the plot twists are not hard to see coming. But, all that said, I'm not sure any of it matters, as The End of October is more a cautionary tale (if a bit late) than anything else. It explores the inadequacy of our collective imagination to see coming such things as viruses, the problem of self-destructive tunnel vision among global governments and nations, and frankly the disturbing mixture of stupidity and self-righteousness among political leaders. There's a moment late in the book when a Public Health Officer working for HHS explodes at the White House Chief of Staff for her absolute lack of vision: that was, for me, the most real and most frightening part of the book. It's what we see every day since Covid-19 made the leap to human beings, and it's the most worrisome part of this new reality.
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  • Dan Graser
    January 1, 1970
    OK well this is a weird review to make. When I purchased this book, I did so because I had no idea Lawrence Wright also wrote fiction and I previously enjoyed his books on the cult of scientology, "Going Clear," as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning, "The Looming Tower," on the United States' road to 9/11. He is a fantastic and engaging writer and a thoroughly provocative investigative journalist who always does his research. Thankfully, he brings that all to his fiction in this work as well.The OK well this is a weird review to make. When I purchased this book, I did so because I had no idea Lawrence Wright also wrote fiction and I previously enjoyed his books on the cult of scientology, "Going Clear," as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning, "The Looming Tower," on the United States' road to 9/11. He is a fantastic and engaging writer and a thoroughly provocative investigative journalist who always does his research. Thankfully, he brings that all to his fiction in this work as well.The weird part of this, is that this novel was begun in 2017, completed in summer of 2019 with advanced review copies being sent out in early 2020... And the book's subject? A global pandemic that seemingly originates in the far East that baffles epidemiologists and triggers global economic shutdowns and takes cold-warring factions to the brink of genuine "hot" war. Though the virus in question here is a version of influenza, he gets SO much of the subsequent social and political machinations exactly right, right down to the scientific illiteracy of the executive branch of our government. Also, as mentioned above, he has done his research in terms of epidemiology and in terms of global politics which make reading some of the fallout and consequence chapters here much more enjoyable, as they are not cheap thriller sequences, they have some believability. Some of the dialogue is a bit cringeworthy and several of the characters themselves seem pointless to the overall narrative, however this is a thriller that will grab your attention, especially amidst Covid-19, and amaze you with prescience while also perhaps providing a bizarre kind of comfort that comes from reading a realistic though fictional scenario that is far worse than anything our current pandemic can generate.
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  • Arnav Sinha
    January 1, 1970
    I have been a fan of Lawrence Wright's nonfiction writing ever since I read The Looming Tower a few years back. Like many other readers, therefore, I was obviously excited about his novel, especially given its potential similarities with our current world crisis.Unfortunately, these spooky similarities are about the only thing The End of October has going for it. It is incredibly prescient in terms of the kind of virus that causes the pandemic, the manner in which the disease spreads, the I have been a fan of Lawrence Wright's nonfiction writing ever since I read The Looming Tower a few years back. Like many other readers, therefore, I was obviously excited about his novel, especially given its potential similarities with our current world crisis.Unfortunately, these spooky similarities are about the only thing The End of October has going for it. It is incredibly prescient in terms of the kind of virus that causes the pandemic, the manner in which the disease spreads, the resulting lockdown at an unprecedented scale, the mad scramble to find an elusive vaccine, the international blame game, and more. However, given the amusing-if-it-weren't-so-tragic mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, the cliche of an American savior comes across even more ridiculous than usual in the novel. Even more so because it was this same savior who was stupid enough to not keep a possibly infected person from traveling abroad and infecting thousands of others. The novel follows all the usual tropes of thrillers of this ilk, which makes you feel that you have already read this story in some form in the past. The periodic detours covering the history of contagious diseases, including multiple descriptions of Edward Jenner's invention of the smallpox vaccine, slow down the narrative. A parallel track involving a US government official seems pointless. Thankfully, like Wright's nonfiction, it is still a fast read. It is also cinematic enough that a movie adaptation seems highly likely. You could do a lot worse with thrillers, but if you have time, I would suggest picking up one of Wright's other books instead of this one.
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  • Connie
    January 1, 1970
    This was an excellent book worthy of a solid 4.5 stars. It is a medical thriller, yet it is more than that. There is so much scientific and mediical information that it almost feels like non-fiction. I learned so much about viruses and epidemiology!Our protagonist, Dr. Henry Parsons, is a world-renowned epidemiologist working for the World Health Organization following diseases around the world. At the beginning of the book, he stumbles upon the beginning of a nightmare of a virus. While he and This was an excellent book worthy of a solid 4.5 stars. It is a medical thriller, yet it is more than that. There is so much scientific and mediical information that it almost feels like non-fiction. I learned so much about viruses and epidemiology!Our protagonist, Dr. Henry Parsons, is a world-renowned epidemiologist working for the World Health Organization following diseases around the world. At the beginning of the book, he stumbles upon the beginning of a nightmare of a virus. While he and his cohorts struggle to learn more about the virus, it goes on infecting and killing people as they move around the world, starting in Indonesia and traveling fast. The plot moved quickly and I had to reread some parts to keep track of what was happening, but I loved it.Some may wonder about the wisdom of reading a book about a global pandemic while in the midst of a global pandemic, but when I heard what this book was about, I knew I had to read it. It was fascinating reading. There were some days I watched the news later after reading part of this book, and I had to remind myself the book I was reading was fiction!This book was well-written and well-researched, and the character development was strong.I will recommend it to readers who like books about science and medicine with a fast-paced plot.Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing advanced digital access in exchange for my honest review.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Without going into spoilers: This is a ripping yarn of a pandemic virus, focusing on a scientist with a dubious past who is well-positioned to figure out a solution. . . . but intertwined with a story of modern warfare in all of its modes. One thing that is pretty interesting is that I sniff a bit of Voltaire's Candide under the surface of this one: discussions of religion, maybe some emotional/social naiveté in the protagonist, the engagement with disaster (cf. the Lisbon earthquake in the Without going into spoilers: This is a ripping yarn of a pandemic virus, focusing on a scientist with a dubious past who is well-positioned to figure out a solution. . . . but intertwined with a story of modern warfare in all of its modes. One thing that is pretty interesting is that I sniff a bit of Voltaire's Candide under the surface of this one: discussions of religion, maybe some emotional/social naiveté in the protagonist, the engagement with disaster (cf. the Lisbon earthquake in the Voltaire).I can recommend the book because . . .* The virus described here is arguably worse that the novel corona virus. Even after the first few chapters, the reader should consider her- or himself lucky with what we have now. We seem to forget the most recent virus all too soon (SARS, MERS, etc.) but we are just not preparing for the future.* The intertwining of a virus with geopolitical crisis of a more extreme form than what we are seeing right now should scare the bejeez out of anyone . . .* And, OK, a bit of a spoiler: (view spoiler)[finally, there is a good account of how nation states can attack infrastructure. (hide spoiler)]In the acknowledgements, Wright needs that the story came from an idea from the filmmaker Ridley Scott -- this will be quite the movie if Scott can product or direct it.
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