A shocking, heart-rending report from the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic in China.

On-the-ground reporting of the coronavirus tragedy that continues to unfold in Wuhan and the Chinese government’s severe authoritarian response.

Rolling lockdowns are still ongoing in China, a harsh government imposition that Xuecun, nom de plume of Hao Qun, asserts has been a handy, efficient way for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party to control its people. Since the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, everyone has a QR code monitoring their health and legal status, allowing the government to physically remove citizens from their homes and jobs, herd them on buses, and lock them in isolation stations for long quarantine periods. The people are treated “like merchandise or livestock, destined for tightly guarded isolation centres—let’s call them concentration camps.” Xuecun came to Wuhan in April 2020, at the urging of his friend Clive Hamilton and despite the risk to himself, to chronicle stories by citizens, including that of Lin Qingchuan, one of countless doctors who contracted the virus while treating the patients in a community hospital with no medical or protection supplies. Lin offers a gruesome look inside the isolation stations and the power of neighborhood committees, and he reveals government attempts to cover up the severity of contagion and fudge the official numbers. In another heartbreaking case, Jin Feng, a retired hospital custodian, chronicles how no hospital would care for her and her husband, and he died in miserable conditions. Other stories include that of Li, one of Wuhan’s “black motorcycle” operators who “transport people illegally”; Liu Xiaoxiao, a substitute teacher who reveals how the normally compliant middle class was shocked by the Jan. 23, 2020, government shutdown of the city; and Yang Min, bereft after the denial of care to her dying daughter. “She is critically ill,” writes the author, “but the hospital can provide no treatment….Yang Min has no choice but to drag her febrile daughter to another hospital.”

A shocking, heart-rending report from the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic in China.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781620977927

Page Count: 320

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023


Deliberately provocative, with much for left-inclined activists to ponder.

A wide-ranging critique of leftist politics as not being left enough.

Continuing his examination of progressive reform movements begun with The Cult of Smart, Marxist analyst deBoer takes on a left wing that, like all political movements, is subject to “the inertia of established systems.” The great moment for the left, he suggests, ought to have been the summer of 2020, when the murder of George Floyd and the accumulated crimes of Donald Trump should have led to more than a minor upheaval. In Minneapolis, he writes, first came the call from the city council to abolish the police, then make reforms, then cut the budget; the grace note was “an increase in funding to the very department it had recently set about to dissolve.” What happened? The author answers with the observation that it is largely those who can afford it who populate the ranks of the progressive movement, and they find other things to do after a while, even as those who stand to benefit most from progressive reform “lack the cultural capital and economic stability to have a presence in our national media and politics.” The resulting “elite capture” explains why the Democratic Party is so ineffectual in truly representing minority and working-class constituents. Dispirited, deBoer writes, “no great American revolution is coming in the early twenty-first century.” Accommodation to gradualism was once counted heresy among doctrinaire Marxists, but deBoer holds that it’s likely the only truly available path toward even small-scale gains. Meanwhile, he scourges nonprofits for diluting the tax base. It would be better, he argues, to tax those who can afford it rather than allowing deductible donations and “reducing the availability of public funds for public uses.” Usefully, the author also argues that identity politics centering on difference will never build a left movement, which instead must find common cause against conservatism and fascism.

Deliberately provocative, with much for left-inclined activists to ponder.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016015

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023



A rousing, suspenseful adventure tale.

A harrowing expedition to Antarctica, recounted by Departures senior features editor Sancton, who has reported from every continent on the planet.

On Aug. 16, 1897, the steam whaler Belgica set off from Belgium with young  Adrien de Gerlache as commandant. Thus begins Sancton’s riveting history of exploration, ingenuity, and survival. The commandant’s inexperienced, often unruly crew, half non-Belgian, included scientists, a rookie engineer, and first mate Roald Amundsen, who would later become a celebrated polar explorer. After loading a half ton of explosive tonite, the ship set sail with 23 crew members and two cats. In Rio de Janeiro, they were joined by Dr. Frederick Cook, a young, shameless huckster who had accompanied Robert Peary as a surgeon and ethnologist on an expedition to northern Greenland. In Punta Arenas, four seamen were removed for insubordination, and rats snuck onboard. In Tierra del Fuego, the ship ran aground for a while. Sancton evokes a calm anxiety as he chronicles the ship’s journey south. On Jan. 19, 1898, near the South Shetland Islands, the crew spotted the first icebergs. Rough waves swept someone overboard. Days later, they saw Antarctica in the distance. Glory was “finally within reach.” The author describes the discovery and naming of new lands and the work of the scientists gathering specimens. The ship continued through a perilous, ice-littered sea, as the commandant was anxious to reach a record-setting latitude. On March 6, the Belgica became icebound. The crew did everything they could to prepare for a dark, below-freezing winter, but they were wracked with despair, suffering headaches, insomnia, dizziness, and later, madness—all vividly capture by Sancton. The sun returned on July 22, and by March 1899, they were able to escape the ice. With a cast of intriguing characters and drama galore, this history reads like fiction and will thrill fans of Endurance and In the Kingdom of Ice.

A rousing, suspenseful adventure tale.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984824-33-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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