Three profiles of epidemics--the bubonic plague, smallpox, and AIDS--each one a cohesive cross section of history, medicine, and biology. In the first part, Giblin (Be Seated, 1993, etc.) describes the origins and history of the plague, contemporary ideas about medicine, attempted cures, society's responses to the epidemic, and its long-term effects on European history. In the second section, he first focuses on the spread of smallpox in the Americas and then gives a blow-by-blow account of the discovery of vaccination. In comparison with the first part of the book, covering centuries, the section on AIDS is--inevitably--empty; history on this level is the stuff of newspapers. But Giblin's prose remains easy and engaging throughout the book; he proves himself a seasoned narrator with an eye for fascinating details. Frampton's graceful black-and-white woodcuts resemble something out of a 16th-century chapbook. A highly informative, engrossing work.