The End of October by Lawrence Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a particularly wide-ranging mixed bag for me. I'd give it 5 stars alone for the devotion to real politics, real name-dropping, real virology and science, and a happy (and scary) look at just how badly the world can (AND DID) handle a pandemic.
Indeed, so much about this novel is so right on target that I would have sworn it was written DURING OUR pandemic while following all the ins and outs of the insanity of 2020. And who knows? Maybe a good deal of it was worked into the near-final manuscript. It doesn't really matter. What we've got here is a very Cook novel full of real science and politics even if some of the politics is more "in the spirit of" rather than the actual state of things. The point is that it gets REALLY close. So much so it feels almost like the real damn deal.
That's the good bits.
The bad is, well, pretty bad. The very things that I liked most about this novel, the focus on the endless science, sometimes drowned out any sense of the underlying tale. And while the devolution into an apocalyptic setting was quite cool, the fundamental resolution and goofy super-thriller-type heroism made me roll my eyes A LOT.
Let me put it this way: if it was all that super-thriller-type Borne or Ethan Hunt or Jack Ryan story from the beginning, I probably wouldn't have forced a higher bar on this fiction. I just would have treated it as a goofy popcorn flic. But it wasn't. It held itself to a pretty high and accurate standard for a great deal of the book. The result was kinda jarring and disappointing.
But don't let that get you down! This book has a lot of good bits in it if you're not already sick and tired of the REAL pandemic. But then, maybe reading this to see just HOW bad it might still become is quite worthwhile. :)
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