Welcome to the you-better-be-Brave New World of emergent viruses.
Much of this crisp and informative book chronicles the Ebola outbreak that savaged Liberia and parts of neighboring countries in September 2014. Goldsmith, a veteran health/science writer, knows how to invest readers in her story. Here, with the help of a swarm of photographs and maps, she explains how the virus found its way to Liberia—an engrossing story in itself—which necessitates a little background information. Goldsmith delivers science in a serious yet welcoming tone (no one gets talked down to); pathology can be fascinating in its own right, but Goldsmith makes the development of vaccines and rapid-result Ebola tests just as absorbing. There is good material on Doctors without Borders as well as on the locals who took part in the effort to educate people about the nature and transmission of the virus. There is also a pithy explanation of viruses—“Not really alive, yet not quite dead, viruses are the zombies of the microscopic world”—including their ability to shift shape, which makes designing a vaccine so difficult. Meanwhile, a creepy image of the virus snakes across the pages, innocent-looking as spaghetti or yarn, deadly as a blue-ringed octopus.
An arresting, illuminating, and unlikely-to-be-forgotten story. (Nonfiction. 12-18)