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Pandemic (The Extinction Files Book 1) Kindle Edition
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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A Sunken Vessel of Unknown Origins
A hundred miles north of Alaska, an American Coast Guard icebreaker discovers a sunken submarine at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. It has no national identification and doesn't match the records of any known vessel. Deep within, researchers find evidence of a scientific experiment that will alter our very understanding of the human race.
A Deadly Outbreak in Africa
In Kenya, an Ebola-like pathogen has infected two Americans. One lies at death's door. With the clock ticking, teams from the CDC, WHO, and Kenyan Ministry of Health rush the scene. What they find in the remote village is beyond their worst fears.
Dr. Peyton Shaw, the CDC's leading epidemiologist, works tirelessly to trace the origin of the pathogen. But with each passing hour, she begins to believe that there is more to this outbreak — that it may be merely the opening act in a conspiracy with far reaching consequences.
A Conspiracy Beyond Imagination
In Berlin, Desmond Hughes awakens in a hotel room with no memory of how he got there or who he is. On the floor, he finds a dead security guard from an international pharmaceutical company. His only clue leads him to Peyton Shaw - a woman who seems to know him, but refuses to tell him how. With the police searching the city for him, Desmond desperately tries to piece together what happened to him. To his shock and horror, he learns that he may be involved in causing the outbreak - and could hold the only key to stopping it.
As the pathogen spreads around the world, Peyton and Desmond race to unravel the conspiracy behind the pandemic — and uncover secrets some want to keep buried.
Q & A with the Infectiously Interesting A.G. Riddle
Q: Okay, I finished Pandemic a few days ago. I really enjoyed it, but frankly I'm still freaked out. How plausible is a global pandemic? PS: I need you to say not very.
A: First, thanks for supplying both question and answer - that's always incredibly helpful. The good news is that by the time you hear about a global pandemic, you're likely already infected.
Q: Wait. That does not make me feel better.
A: Excellent. Your fear and preparedness may save your life one day.
One of my goals with Pandemic was to raise awareness of just how vulnerable we are to a pandemic in the developed world. I also wanted to showcase the work of epidemiologists and public health workers who put their lives at risk every day. They are the reason we've gone so long without a major pandemic that kills millions. To me, they're the heroes of Pandemic. Sadly, their real-life exploits are rarely reported. Let's face it, if we knew, we'd be even more frightened.
Q: So you're saying this could happen?
A: I would say that I hope it doesn't, but history and statistics are not on our side. Since prehistoric times, we’ve fought a constant battle against infectious diseases. Consider a passage from Dr. Peyton Shaw in the novel (all of the following is factual):
In the third century, the Antonine Plague wiped out a third of Europe’s population. And just when population levels were recovering, the Plague of Justinian in the sixth century killed almost half of all Europeans; up to fifty million people died from what we believe was bubonic plague.
In the 1340s, the Plague once again remade Europe, forever changing the course of world history. At that time, we believe the world population was around 450 million. The Black Death killed at least 75 million. Some estimates go as high as 200 million. Imagine, in the span of four years between twenty and fifty percent of the world population dying.
Europe, because of its large cities, population density, and advanced trade routes, has repeatedly been a hotbed for pandemics. But it is not alone.
The image switched to a picture of Spanish conquistadors meeting indigenous tribes at a shoreline, their wooden ships anchored in a bay behind them.
Consider the New World when Europeans arrived. We’ve heard so much about the plight of native peoples in the present-day United States, but consider the populations of New Spain, present-day Mexico. In 1520, smallpox killed nearly eight million. Twenty-five years later, a mysterious viral hemorrhagic fever killed fifteen million — roughly eighty percent of their population at the time. Imagine that: a mysterious illness killing eight out of every ten people. In America, that would be over 240 million people. It’s unthinkable, but it happened, right here in North America, less than five hundred years ago. We still haven’t identified the pathogen that decimated Mexico in the sixteenth century, but we do know it returned twenty years later, in 1576, following two years of drought. It killed another two million from the already decimated population. To this day, we still have very few clues about what caused that pandemic. Most importantly, we don’t know if or when it will return.
The image changed to a black-and-white photo of a field hospital with rows of iron single beds holding patients covered by wool blankets.
1918. The Spanish Flu. Or, as it’s more recently known, the 1918 Flu Epidemic. Less than one hundred years ago. Estimates are that one in every three people around the world contracted the pathogen. It killed one in five people who fell ill with the disease. As many as fifty million died. We think twenty-five million died in the first six months of the outbreak.
Human history has a repeating theme: we battle pandemics, we lose, we die, it burns itself out, and we rebuild. We always come out the other side stronger. Humanity marches on.
But today, we are more connected than ever before. Our population is four times larger than it was at the time of the last major global pandemic in 1918. We’re more urbanized. We’re disturbing more animal habitats. Most concerning, we are disturbing habitats where reservoir hosts for extremely deadly diseases reside. Fruit bats, rats, squirrels, fowl, and other hosts for zoonotic diseases are coming into contact with humans with greater frequency.
Q: Still not feeling totally reassured here. Give it to me straight: how do I survive when the big one happens?
A: Your best chance of survival is to avoid infection. That may be nearly impossible if the pathogen is airborne and capable of surviving on hard surfaces (fomites) for a meaningful amount of time. It will be even more difficult if you live in an urban area and if those infected are asymptomatic and contagious during the early stages of infection. Carriers could be all around you - for days before you even know the pandemic has begun.
Treatment is an even greater challenge. The novel depicts a new, Ebola-like viral hemorrhagic fever with a high mortality rate. There's no viable treatment. In those scenarios the best healthcare providers can do is to treat secondary infections and provide palliative care. Dehydration is a serious concern.
Tracing the spread and containing the pathogen becomes the key to ending such a pandemic. That's why we see cordon sanitaires established in places where a new disease has been identified.
Our best hope of surviving a pandemic is early identification and a fast, coordinated response from government. The book details some of these early warning systems. GPHIN, for example, monitors data from health agencies as well as social media--Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - and looks for patterns of a new outbreak emerging. It identified SARS and MERS early, saving countless lives.
Q: Let's back up. How does a pandemic get started?
A: Probably with animals.
Q: Like the monkey in the movie Outbreak?
A: It's actually a lot like that. Animals all around us carry viruses and bacteria that don’t harm them, but wreak havoc on our bodies. These zoonotic diseases are a huge problem in the developing world and to a lesser extent everywhere else. Scientists estimate that over 60% of known infectious diseases in people are spread from animals, and 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases in people are spread from animals.
We believe that African fruit bats harbor the Ebola virus--they're natural reservoir hosts. When the fruit bats come into contact with humans (in caves for example), they transmit the Ebola virus; in fact, that’s how we believe many Ebola outbreaks have begun. Field mice harbor hanta-viruses and lassa fever. Black rats, prairie dogs, chipmunks and squirrels are capable of carrying bubonic plague. Ticks carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And there’s perhaps the best known example: rabies in raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. We believe HIV was a zoonotic disease transmitted to humans in the early part of the 20th century, though it has now evolved to become a separate human-only disease.
Q: This is now officially the scariest book interview I’ve ever done. Let’s get back to the story. And you have got to stop scaring me.
Pandemics seem to feature in all of your previous books. How is this novel different?
A: My past novels like The Atlantis Gene, The Atlantis Plague, and Departure take place before and after a massive pandemic. With this new novel, I wanted to take readers inside what a real-life response to a global pandemic might look like, to show the outbreak from the perspective of those infected and those working to stop it.
I spent over two years researching and writing the book. Getting the details as close as fiction would allow was important to me. And of course, my first priority was to tell a good story that makes folks forget about life for a while.
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Top customer reviews
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Do you enjoy the feeling of being unable to put a book down?
This is the book for you!
A.G. Riddle is a phenomenal writer. His Atlantis series blew me out of the water. Now, he is back and better than ever.
Imagine a virus spreading like Wildfire with no end in sight. What would you do? Where would you go? How would you fight?
Riddle takes a fictional scenario, deeply roots it in science and real-world research, and molds the two to create a thriller unlike any other. What makes the story truly gripping is how real it feels; the research that has gone into this book shows what would happen during an outbreak. It's got a great story and has compelling characters; no cliches or boring, flat dimensional characters here.
Prepare yourself for a wild ride from start to finish, and if you're anything like me, you'll be gasping for more as you turn the last page.
As usual, he’s got great characters in this – loved the different perspectives from a variety of different global citizens. The plot twists had me gaping. I can’t say much more without giving stuff away, but this was a tense, gripping story. I plowed my way through like I was on the tip of an avalanche – you’re scared and nervous, but can’t stop moving forward. Excellent intensity.
All in all, I would say, if you’ve enjoyed any of Riddle’s other books, be sure to grab this one. Also, this is book one of a coming trilogy, so it will be interesting to see where the story goes in the future. Notably, Riddle has done superb things with sci-fi in the past, but this book is more of a suspense/thriller type saga, so I’ll be watching to see if books two and three delve slowly into more sci-fi issues or stay within the realm of current science. Either way, I need Riddle to hurry up and produce the next two books!
AG Riddle takes a very real issue and let's his imagination run wild. What happens when a pandemic starts? And what if it was done intentionally? Those two points are explored in this fast-paced, action packed thriller. And although it is the start of a trilogy, this book answers enough questions to leave you satisfied while waiting to find out what happens next.
This is AG Riddle' s best book so far. His extensive research is evident and makes the book read like a dramatization of real events. The characters' back stories have such depth that you really feel like you know them. I have been comparing him to Michael Crichton since his first book and this book only emphasizes that statement more. So if you like sciencey-thriller-conspiracy stories, you will love this book.
Character development is flat - the protagonists all manage to sound like pretty much the same person, and the individual details that are meant to bring a character to life just seem trite and forced.
In order to support the plot, the author makes some blatantly incorrect statements/assumptions, and while this might work in a series that was pure fantasy, one of the selling points for these books was their supposedly "good" science - so the lapses really stick out.
For some unknown reason, the author insists on clumsily inserting his personal political perspective at random points throughout the narrative. He tries to cover this by trying to force the opinions to seem like a neutral/objective aspect of the story's background information, but it just doesn't work. As tempting as it may be to insert contemporary political opinions into a tale like this one, a really good story is at its strongest when the narrative speaks for itself without the author contorting it so that he's given a window to express his personal opinions Trying to jam in very contemporary 'news bite' style comments is frankly annoying as heck, and time and again the result was to rudely yank me out of the story I was struggling to immerse myself in.
It's too bad. This could have been a really excellent series, but at least for this reader, it's going to be an unfinished series, because its flaws outweigh its strengths.
Overall, and as a minor additional comment - the book(s) need better editing - there are some jarring errors that would have easily been caught with good editing.