Though hedged with qualifiers, Orent’s message is chilling, and her stories of previous epidemics make palpable the enormity...




Vivid recounting of past outbreaks of plague, coupled with ominous predictions of man-made ones that may lie ahead.

Science journalist Orent, who worked on the English version of Igor Domaradskij’s memoir Biowarrior (not reviewed), opens with a visit to Obolensk, site of the lab where Domaradskij claims to have worked on turning plague and other diseases into biological weapons. His former colleague Lev Melnikov tells the author that her job is to scare the American public, to make them see the danger posed by genetically altered plague germs. Pursuing that goal with vigor, Orent argues here that while there is no proof that a highly lethal, vaccine- and antibiotic-resistant plague weapon has ever been made, the technology may now exist to produce it. She reports on what scientists currently know about the different forms of plague and the ways it is spread across species and from person to person. To familiarize readers with its horrors, she focuses on three great pandemics: the Justinian Plague of the sixth century, the medieval Black Death, and the early-20th century’s Third Pandemic, primarily in India and China. While records of the Justinian Plague are comparatively scanty, contemporary accounts of the Black Death illustrate the panic it created and the devastation that it wrought across Europe. (Of special interest are Orent’s descriptions of public health measures taken by Italian city-states.) Not until the Third Pandemic did researchers begin to unravel the disease’s mysteries, identifying the plague bacillus and discovering the connection among rodents, fleas, and humans. Natural plague can now be controlled through careful monitoring, medical treatment, and quarantine, but weaponized, genetically engineered plague remains a possibility, she argues. If we are to believe her Russian scientists, the seed strains still exist, and so does the scientific knowledge to turn plague into a bioweapon that could turn up in the hands of terrorists.

Though hedged with qualifiers, Orent’s message is chilling, and her stories of previous epidemics make palpable the enormity of the threat.

Pub Date: May 12, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-3685-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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