Customer Reviews

24 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:    (0)
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely absorbing
Mr. Tucker has written a highly readable account of one of the great killers of human history. Starting with background on smallpox: the course of the disease, its effect on humnan history, its use as a biological weapon, and moving through to the early work of Jenner in the field of vaccination, and the awe-inspiring triumph of the campaign to eradicate this terrible...
Published on October 10, 2001 by Bucky

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and well written
A methodical, thorough, competent, sober, sobering and comprehensive account of the efforts over the years to rid the world of smallpox. His analysis of the politics involved as well as luck, timing - good and bad - are interesting.
Published on January 7, 2006 by Ian Muldoon

‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely absorbing, October 10, 2001
Bucky (Haunted Mansion, The Magic Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Mr. Tucker has written a highly readable account of one of the great killers of human history. Starting with background on smallpox: the course of the disease, its effect on humnan history, its use as a biological weapon, and moving through to the early work of Jenner in the field of vaccination, and the awe-inspiring triumph of the campaign to eradicate this terrible disease, this riveting account paints a portrait of one the great public health achievements of the 20th, or any, century. From that high point, the author then goes on to describe the hideous betrayal of that achievement by the very people who had first proposed undertaking the eradication of smallpox: the former Soviet Union. He lays out the Soviet bioweapons program that secretly kept the virus alive and kicking, and the Soviets' attempts to combine the virus with other viruses to create an even more powerful bug. Given recent events, this book's timing and message could not be better. Scourge is not an alarmist book, rather, a sobering one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast moving...and MORE TIMELY EACH DAY, July 9, 2002
Smallpox is back into the news with a VENGEANCE these days...and Scourge's theme becomes as timely -- informative, troubling and, when you ponder it, TRAGIC -- as ever.
But make no mistake about it: this book is NOT just doom-and-gloom: the underlying message is that man battled smallpox -- the airborne, spitting cobra of diseases --throughout the centuries and eventually won. And even though it looks like a merciless segment of mankind (terrorists or terrorists-sympathizing governments) could WITTINGLY unleash this disease that already killed millions, mankind conquered smallpox once -- and it can do so again......but it will cost many lives.
Just look at some recent news stories. It recently was revealed that some Russians died during the 70s of what was suspected to have been a "perfected" form of weaponized
smallpox secretly developed by their own government to use against the United States. July 2002: a news story notes a US plan to immunize nurses doctors and other health workers first and provide for treatment and mass vaccination AFTER the fact. July 2002: a news story says volunteers are trying a 50-year-old smallpox vaccine in the US, where vaccinations haven't been offered since 1972 (and they wear off after 10 years).
In Scourge, biological and technical weapons expert Jonathan Tucker gives you the PERFECT briefing book on how the disease works, how it is spread, how doctors have painstakingly battled to decrease its murderous capacity over the centuries, and how, in 1978 under WHO's remarkable Dr. DA Henderson, international doctors proclaimed a relentless campaign against the disease over and successful: smallpox was completely erradicated.
One of the book's most fascinating parts is how he traces smallpox's use(with little remorse) as an early biological weapon by colonists against Native Americans, by the British against Americans and others. And why not? The disease kills 30 percent of the people who get it in the most horrific, painful ways: it would literally bring an enemy to its knees.
This clearly-written, fast moving book then shifts: to one of the greatest betrayals of mankind. And when the shift comes you are shocked...and sickened.
Tucker outlines in great detail how the rumors were confirmed: yes, the Soviet Union had LIED -- and HAD maintained smallpox stocks and HAD worked on developing it for use as The ULTIMATE biological weapon (confirmed by recent news reports). The Soviets wanted to "perfect" smallpox as a lethal weapon that could kill up to 100 percent of the time (in other words 30 percent was too low a death rate for them) -- to spray or bomb via missile or plane to finish off an already-reeling US population after a catastrophic nuclear attack.
Today, Tucker notes, it's feared that virus stocks are held by North Korea, Iran, Iraq and China. Even worse: there are fears that terrorists can get -- or already have -- the
smallpox weapon. All this in a world in which countries have stopped smallpox vaccinations.
PERSONAL NOTE: I can personally attest to some of this book's accuracy. In 1974, as a freelance correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, I went down to Patna, Bihar with WHO teams as they went into tiny villages to find smallpox cases, isolate them, and vaccinate other areas. It wasn't pretty. But the doctors were so inspiring: they BELIEVED they had an unparalleled medical achievement within their grasp and that, for the good of humanity, they were close to totally exterminating this disease. And by 1978 they announced that they did.
But in the end, as this book shows, they -- and centuries of dedicated medical workers, doctors and smallpox victims -- were betrayed. Yes, the doctors killed smallpox. But the military and governments kept it on life support. A pox on both their houses.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different viewpoint of the same problem., April 17, 2003
I just recently finish Preston's book 'The Demon in the Freezer'. You would think that would fulfill my appetite for knowledge concerning smallpox, right? But that particular book and this one, Scourge, are very different. While Preston writes for the masses, often in a very novelistic, suspenseful way to bring information concerning microbial dangers to everyone, this particular book is more for those whose interests and avocations and jobs lie in these fields. This does not mean the book is written boringly. Both books deserved the five stars for different reasons. 'Demon...' was exciting and horrifying in it's details concerning smallpox, this book brings to life the unfortunate politics played behind the scenes by physicians, by government entities such as the Defense Department, by politicians who do not understand the full implications of most biological and bioethical discussions, by entire countries (U.S. and Russia the worst as per usual).
Though Tucker and Preston mention a few names and incidents in common in their books, their writing is very different. Tucker is deeply involved in bioweapons development as a member of an elite group that monitors this type of problem internationally. Preston writes like a journalist. So the impact of their writing is completely different and I personally think anyone interested in this problem is well-served by reading both books.
Scourge tells the story of the political problems not only in eradicating the smallpox worldwide, but the current problem concerning the existence of stocks at the CDC and VEctor, and whether they should be destroyed. Tucker goes into far more detail concerning the problems in India and Bangladesh that made that country one of the last to contain smallpox (and bodes ill should smallpox ever raises its head there again). He also goes into much more detail concerning Russia's two-faced behavior in supplying the world with the vaccine that led to eradication, but in secret continuing to work on smallpox and genetic variations in order to have them for biological weaponry.
Tucker also gives a good warning at the end chapter, that while the ability to use smallpox as a weapon is more difficult then imagined, the possibility of using it still exists. He emphasizes that panic does not contribute anything useful, but awareness and preparation for the possibility does. I am glad that the smallpox vaccinations are there, and I think more physicians and other medical personnel should be prepared for seeing these cases, and being able to differentiate between smallpox, flu, and chickenpox.
Karen Sadler,
Science Education
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides Answers And Provokes More Questions, November 27, 2001
Mr. Jonathan B. Tucker has not offered readers a rapidly compiled, superficial report, in response to the attacks of September 11 and the concerns raised since then. This work is not sensationalized although the effects of certain strains of this disease are hard to describe without appearing gratuitously graphic. There are a wide variety of strains of this virus provided by nature that are truly horrific. Then there are engineered strains that are man-made for use only as weapons that justify questioning how we as a species have survived this long, and how easily the time for many could be abbreviated.
The author traces the disease from Ancient Egypt, to, and until the successful end of an international effort to remove the disease from the planet. This particular member of The Pox Family of viruses does not have a host, like Malaria's Mosquito. It exists only in humans, and unlike Anthrax that can remain dormant; when Smallpox is killed it stays that way. The eradication of this health menace is one of the great accomplishments of medicine and of mankind; unfortunately the story does not yet have a happy ending.
Until 1992 when a Russian Scientist defected and brought the story of Russia's massive Bio-Weapons program in Siberia to the world's attention, it was widely believed that there were only two relatively small amounts of the virus in existence. One location was at The Center For Disease Control in Atlanta, and a single locale in Russia, which in reality was more than one, inclusive of a massive facility for engineering new strains of the virus and the means to deliver them at a facility in Siberia. The Soviets were not content with a virus that countries had stopped protecting their populations with; they were creating more vicious strains by adding, in one example, a Hemorrhagic aspect to the disease. This is the type of virus associated with Ebola.
When the USSR imploded there was technology for sale, scientists, and the diseases they had created. It now is believed that North Korea, Iraq, and Iran have the virus, and other nations may have it as well. The World Health Organization had been attempting to destroy all the viral stocks, however they have been blocked not only by The United States and Russia, but many in the scientific community as well. Spring of 2002 was to be the date for final destruction of all stockpiles; this date would now appear highly unlikely.
The book gives a very good historical overview of Smallpox and the effects it has had on history. Smallpox has been used as a weapon in war and the effects were devastating. The only technology involved was giving away blankets that the sick had been wrapped in, or sending carriers of the disease amongst the enemy. This was Smallpox as nature created it, and how 17th and 18th century warfare delivered it. The book also goes into great detail about the delivery systems that could be launched upon missiles with multiple warheads, which could release the virus over large areas.
Unlike Anthrax, Smallpox is extremely contagious depending on the strain involved. All strains are contagious; some produce more in aerosol form from an infected person than others. This book also makes it very clear that a person who shows no signs of having the disease can transmit it.
The frustrating part of this book and others sources I have reviewed is that there is no agreement on how much vaccine The United States has at present. I have read numbers from 16 million to 90 million doses. The US Government is authorizing production of enough vaccine for the entire US Population as a result of September 11th. Another point that is bothersome, is that once vaccinated, how long is a person protected? No one will state a time frame. The answer is generally phrased as, after x number of years the resistance of the person vaccinated will decrease. I have read numbers from as low as 5 years to as high as 12. Even after these points it appears to be the consensus the person is still afforded some protection.
The one fact that is not in dispute, is that with the exception of military personnel, those who work around the disease, and others who may serve overseas, no one has been vaccinated in this country since 1972. So leaving aside how long those who have been vaccinated at one time may still have some protection, and dealing only with those who have zero resistance, we have a nation with a group from birth to age 29, and that population is unprotected.
ICBM laced Smallpox missiles are probably not worth a great deal of concern. However in this book you will read of scenarios where extremely low-tech methods could spread the disease, for example, in an Airport, and within 24 hours there would be few states that would not have people incubating and spreading the disease.
The book is not alarmist, however after the attacks of the 11th of September, the number of scenarios that once appeared fantastic, must now be viewed with reasonable amounts of serious thought. The manner that the disease was originally destroyed is not only remarkable; it was done in a manner you will not expect. This book may have had a very narrow audience some months ago, now it should be of interest to everyone.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smallpox -- Eradication and back again, maybe, October 16, 2001
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book was written from extensive interviews with Dr. Henderson, the CDC and Johns Hopkins public health physician who headed up the program to eradicate smallpox from the world, believed to be successful as of 1980. So the stories from that fight to rid the world of smallpox are fascinating and authoritative.
The story continues through Henderson's effort to get rid of the last government storage freezers of the virus -- and his failure, because of what the government knew and he didn't: the Russians had been growing tons of smallpox for years and loading them in ICBMS aimed at the U.S. It was a terrific betrayal.
Big, big question facing us today: When the Russians dismantled their biowarfare program, did anyone get some leftovers?
So now the entire world, completely unvaccinated, is vulnerable to this terrible disease, just as the Aztecs were when a handful of armored Spanish soldiers (and one slave with smallpox) destroyed their entire civilization.
In the wargames played with biowarfare using smallpox attacks on American cities, the outcome was not favorable. And at the end, players were using ancient techniques because the vaccine had quickly run out: arm-to-arm vaccination, variolation, the goal at that point just being to save as many people as possible. This book tells how to do those easy and old techniques.
History, descriptions, facts, transmittal, symptoms, all you need to know about smallpox should there actually be some out there after all.
It is to be hoped that no one will never actually need any of the information in this book. If not, the historical record of the eradication of the disease makes vivid reading in itself.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly fascinating!, January 6, 2003
Walter Reade (Appleton, WI United States) - See all my reviews
There are already a number of great Amazon[.com] reviews on this book; I just wanted to add my voice and say how much I enjoyed it. It is incredibly well written and very difficult to put down. Tucker does a fantastic job of presenting the harsh history of small pox as well as alerting the reader the to potential modern-day threat. It is immensely interesting and informative. I've leant this book to a couple of friends, and they both were very pleased with it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox, June 28, 2002
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The author, Jonathan Tucker is an expert on biological and chemical weapons. He studied biology at Yale University, received his Ph.D. in political science from MIT, and served in the State Department, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. So, although his descriptions of past epidemics are horrible enough, it's the present and future threat of smallpox---the second half of this book---where Tucker really scared the bejabbers out of me. I had no idea that the Soviet bioweapons program, Vector, had gone as far as it did in developing viral weapons. According to the author, "Some 4,500 people, including about 250 Ph.D.-level scientists, worked at Vector in the late 1980s...One goal of the...program was to develop a smallpox-based biological weapon containing virulence genes from Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus. At least theoretically, such a viral chimera would combine the hardiness and transmissibility of smallpox with the lethality of Ebola, which was between 90 percent and 100 percent fatal, resulting in an 'absolute' biological weapon."
The real irony of the Vector bioweapons program was that the Soviet Union (along with the United States) was a major factor in eradicating the scourge of smallpox from the world in the 1970s.
Where are those 4,500 people who worked at Vector, now? Where is the twenty tons of smallpox virus formulation that was stocked at the Center of Virology in Zagorsk? The Soviets supposedly destroyed the stockpile in the late 1980s, but the smallpox seed cultures and the expertise to manufacture biological weapons from them still remain.
The author clearly presents the arguments for and against retaining the known remaining smallpox virus stocks in Atlanta and Moscow. However, I believe he sides with the 'destructionists' rather than the 'retentionists': "From a practical standpoint, now that the DNA sequences of representative strains of variola virus hade been determined, the live virus was no longer needed to identify smallpox if it were to reappear in the future. Nor would live variola [smallpox] virus be required to protect against a future outbreak of smallpox, since the small pox vaccine--based on the distinct vaccinia virus--could be retained and stockpiled for insurance purposes."
The long, difficult task of eliminating smallpox from the world (as thrillingly described in "Scourge") will not be complete until all known and rogue virus stocks (believed held by North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and possibly China) are destroyed. The world's population has grown increasingly vulnerable to the disease since the last official vaccination programs were eliminated in 1984, as the protective immunity induced by the vaccine lasts only about seven to ten years. Nor is there an effective medical treatment for smallpox.
As Tucker states in his closing sentence: "Until humanity's legal and moral restraints catch up with its scientific and technological achievements, the eradication of smallpox will remain as much a cautionary tale as an inspirational one."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Smallpox Remains a Bioterrorism Threat: A Review for Teachers, September 9, 2014
This review is from: Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (Paperback)
Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox by Jonathan B. Tucker, Atlantic Monthly Press: New York, 291 pages hardcover, 2001.

The worldwide eradication of smallpox has been one of the scientific triumphs that I emphasize every year in biology class: science at its finest hour. Now the U.S. has stockpiled smallpox vaccine just when we thought the only remaining virus was technically extinct. How did this happen?

Tucker explains. “On May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly in Geneva declared officially that smallpox had been conquered worldwide. The assembly also endorsed the nineteen recommendations...most notably the call to halt the routine vaccination of civilians against the disease.” However, the scientific research and health communities were naive concerning the mindset and politics of the various military communities around the world.

“The British use of smallpox as a weapon during the eighteenth century set the stage for renewed military interest in the virus in the mid-twentieth century. During World War II, British, Canadian and American scientists studied smallpox as a potential biowarfare agent, although they eventually abandoned this line of research because the contagious nature of the disease made it difficult to control. Japanese army doctors, however, exposed Chinese prisoners of war to aerosolized variola virus at a secret germ research center in occupied Manchuria known as Unit 731.... They were left to die untreated and their bodies were burned. After World War II, the U.S. Army’s biological warfare center at Fort Detrick, Maryland, did additional research on smallpox before President Richard M. Nixon officially halted the U.S. offensive program in November 1969. Even so, variola virus [smallpox] was never particularly high on the list of agents that the army considered worthy of investment because vaccination provided an effective defense against military use.... In 1972, the Soviet Union signed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), an international treaty banning the development, production, and stockpiling of weapons based on disease agents and natural poisons. Largely because of Soviet objections to on-site inspections, this treaty included no measures for checking compliance and hence was little more than a gentleman’s agreement.”

There will be a tendency for U.S. readers to see the Soviet continuation of biowarfare research as confirmation of the “evil nation” image. However, Tucker provides a chilling and sad insight into the reasoning of the Kremlin: “Despite President Nixon’s official renunciation of biological warfare in 1969, the Kremlin believed that Washington was secretly continuing to develop biological weapons under the cover of defensive research. Although this assessment was wrong, it is now known that Soviet leaders had some basis for making it. Recently declassified documents indicate that during the 1970s, U.S. military intelligence used double agents, including Sergeant Joseph Cassidy and Dmitry Polyakov, to feed false information to Moscow that the United States was continuing in secret to develop new generations of chemical and biological weapons. The purpose of this disinformation campaign was to encourage the Soviets to squander resources on toxic weapons of limited military utility. Ironically, Soviet military scientists, spurred on by the perceived need to catch up with the United States, made several unexpected breakthroughs.... Thus, a dangerous miscalculation by U.S. military intelligence was partly to blame for the terrifying achievement of the Soviet biological warfare program.”

Just as the U.S. had previously used Fort Detrick, the U.S.S.R. had Vector lab and a new Directorate called “Biopreparat” that was supposedly a civilian vaccine project but actually was a very effective biological weapons production effort. The Soviets even furnished doctors for the WHO effort to eliminate smallpox. Some of the Soviet doctors, however, were also KGB agents who on the one hand helped eradicate smallpox, but on the other hand brought back samples of a particularly virulent strain in India for research at Vector. The Center for Virology at Zagorsk was ordered to stockpile up to twenty metric tons of variola virus, and a huge set of chicken farms had to be established to provide the eggs necessary to culture the virus. “In 1980, when the WHO formally certified the global eradication of smallpox and decided to halt the vaccination of civilians, the Kremlin cynically viewed this triumph of international public health as a military opportunity. From now on, the world’s population would become increasingly susceptible to smallpox infection, transforming the virus into a true weapon of mass destruction.”

The production and the effective development of smallpox bomblets for delivery by ICBM are described in such detail, that I continually re-checked the authors credentials. Jonathan Tucker studied biology at Yale and received his Ph.D. in political science at MIT, and then served in the State Department, the Office of Technology Assessment, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The accuracy that results is also due to the defection of Colonel Alibekov, a top biowarfare researcher, in 1992. No scientists beyond the U.S. military would learn of the Soviet facilities until early 1998. And although the Russians have now shut down biowarfare research and destroyed much of the stockpiled smallpox cultures, the stockpile was very vulnerable during the times of political change, and the potential for rogue nations and terrorist groups to acquire the agents is far from remote. The video "NOVA: Bioterror" can be used to illustrate some of the biowarfare sites and concepts discussed in this book.

Although I bear a smallpox vaccination scar on my arm, my freshman college students have long since failed to have that protection. “Routine vaccination of civilians in the United States had stopped in 1972 and in other parts of the world by 1984 at the latest. Because the protective immunity induced by the vaccine lasted only about seven to ten years, it had long since waned for those vaccinated as children, and millions more had never been vaccinated. No effective drug treatments were available, and stocks of the vaccine had dwindled around the world.”

However, President Clinton and national security advisors began preparing a response for biowarfare attack, and accelerated it following the first World Trade Center bombing, the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, and the Aum Shinrikyo attacks in Japan.
Therefore, in this book written and published before September 11, 2001 and the subsequent anthrax attacks, Tucker notes how efforts had already been launched by Clinton’s administration to boost the public health surveillance and accumulate smallpox vaccine. As a biology teacher, I had kept a close eye on the swinging debate on destroying the last remaining smallpox virus cultures at the CDC, a goal of the health community documented in the MMWR, until the public revelations of 1998. Now, the virus must be maintained, critical in preparation of vaccine and for future anti-biowarfare research.

This tale, that continues to unfold in garbled sensationalism on television news magazine shows, is told in riveting history by Tucker. Students who formerly would have yawned at the telling of the work of Jenner and other pioneers, will now follow the book to its end. It can be read by an average high school student, even a highly motivated middle schooler. It is solid background for the future questions a biology teacher will encounter. It is also a sickening tale of the bright shining success of public health eradication being undermined by the dark side of military philosophy, people’s hate, and collective ignorance. School libraries need copies for students. Biology teachers need to keep one at hand when they teach.

John Richard Schrock
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A straightforward and compelling historcal account, June 15, 2009
This review is from: Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (Paperback)
Scourge is quite simply the first smallpox-related book that I have enjoyed from beginning to end. Jonathan Tucker truly pulls off a remarkable feat, synthesizing the vast amount of literature into a taut, compelling account of the history of smallpox, the most terrible disease ever to plague mankind. At its core, Scourge is a comprehensive and fairly neutral account of the history of smallpox, from early epidemics in Europe and America to the unparalleled efforts of the WHO eradication campaign to the contemporary debate regarding the fate of the remaining smallpox strains.

Many readers, upon opening Scourge for the first time may wonder: Why do people still care? Wasn't smallpox eradicated? Tucker answers these questions from the very start with a hypothetical scenario on death row, a potent metaphor for the contemporary debate on whether or not to destroy the remaining smallpox strands. It is a simple device that serves to remind the reader of the current relevancy of smallpox, which helps to support the book in its recounting of early history. He begins the historical account with speculations on the role of smallpox in early civilizations and darts through an account of the epidemics in Europe and America during the 18th century as well as Jenner's development of the smallpox vaccine.

These events, however, are merely meant to be a primer for the heart of Scourge, which is the discussion of smallpox in the 20th century onward. In the first part of this discussion Tucker devotes full attention to the massive WHO eradication campaign, detailing its early efforts in West and Central Africa to the final push in India and Bangladesh. Tucker wisely anchors the story of the eradication campaign to the personal journey of its director, D.A. Henderson. His rise from an officer of the Epidemiological Intelligence Service to director of the smallpox eradication campaign is rife with ambition and unwitting betrayal, as the unexpected acceptance of his combined smallpox/measles vaccination program proposal strains the resources of the EIS and almost destroys his relationship to his superior, Dr. Alexander Langston. Henderson's story, as well as the other stories of the individuals involved in the eradication campaign convincingly puts a human face to this chapter in the smallpox story.

The second half of this discussion, focusing on smallpox and biological warfare is compelling as well, although the horrific content would arguably stand on its own in lesser hands. He retraces in detail the Soviet Union's intentions to weaponize smallpox as an agent of biological warfare and the work of the Vector program, which was devoted to the engineering of viruses for such purposes. Once again Tucker wisely anchors this discussion to the personal stories of the people involved, particularly Kanatjan Alibekov's progression from aspiring physician to scientist in the Vector program to active anti-biological warfare spokesperson. Tucker captures the perpetual sense of dread and uncertainty regarding whether or not the international community will ever reach a consensus regarding the fate of the remaining smallpox strands. By meticulously recreating the dense web of conflicting interests regarding international security and the possibility of rogue sources of smallpox, Tucker ably conveys the moral and ethical ambiguities characteristic of the debate regarding destruction, which is itself a testament to Tucker's clear, impartial writing style.

This neutrality is both a source of Scourge's strength and weakness, depending on the reader's expectations. Those looking for stirring or controversial commentary regarding the debate on smallpox destruction will be disappointed; Tucker refuses to take a stance, offering general recommendations for the future handling of biological warfare but never personally commenting on whether or not the remaining smallpox strands should be destroyed. Yet the cool, uncalculating eye that Tucker casts on events allows history to breathe and compel on its own; as a result, events like the implementation of coercion tactics in the WHO eradication campaign feel very real and devoid of the sensationalism that generally plagues many historical accounts. While the book may be less controversial because of it, Tucker's lack of bias preserves the already riveting essence of the narrative and is all the better for it.

As far as smallpox books go, Scourge is hard to beat. Packed to the brim with smallpox history yet accessible to any reader, Tucker's narrative is a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in smallpox and stands as one of the best introductions to the subject available.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timing isn't everything, content makes this book a no miss!, November 8, 2001
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I read this book on the flight to NYC where my husband and I viewed the remains of the World Trade Center. A memorable event. Tucker's book is a memorable reading event for anyone interested in public health, bioweapons, US and world policy, and anyone who wants to read a darn good story! The book can be divided into three parts; the history and impact of smallpox on the human race, the unprecidented efforts to successfully eradicate this disease from the earth, and its real potential for reintroduction as a potent bioweapon. Tucker is a careful researcher as well as a wonderful storyteller, an unbeatable combination considering the nature of the topic he chose to write about. You like Tom Clancy? The story told here is real. Don't let the non-fiction designation deter you from reading this page-turner.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First


Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox
Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox by Jonathan B. Tucker (Paperback - August 12, 2002)
$14.00 $11.74
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.