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Quick take

The world scrambles to stop the spread of a deadly new outbreak in this medical thriller that feels eerily relevant.

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Why I love it

I’m a huge science fiction nerd, and growing up, my first foray into the genre was through the works of Michael Crichton. I loved how books like Jurassic Park posed the question, “What would happen if people abused the laws of science and nature?” ... and then let said abused science and nature run roughshod all over humanity. Which is why I was immediately drawn to The End of October, a frighteningly prescient look at how the world would react in the event of a global pandemic.

When 47 people are pronounced dead at an Indonesian internment camp, epidemiologist Henry Parsons is sent in to investigate what happened. What he discovers is an unstoppable deadly new virus that threatens humanity. As Henry races against the clock to uncover answers and find a cure, back home in America his family is forced to deal with the fallout from the pandemic: social distancing, a collapsing economy, rampant fake news, inundated hospitals, and food droughts.

Sound familiar?

It’s hard not to compare The End of October to current news and events, and it’s unnerving to read just how “right” author Lawrence Wright got it. But that only makes the book that much more of a propulsive page-turner. Often we turn to sci-fi as a way of escaping the real world, but this might be one of the few instances where readers find sci-fi more relatable than fiction. And while The End of October may be topical and terrifying, by its conclusion, it offers a glimmer of hope for us in these uncertain times.

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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.

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