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The End of October

by Lawrence Wright

Hardcover, 380 pages, Random House Inc, List Price: $27.95 |

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The End of October
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NPR Summary

In this propulsive medical thriller, Dr. Henry Parsons races to find the origins and cure of a mysterious new killer virus as it brings the world to its knees.

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San Francisco's California Street, usually filled with cable cars, is seen empty on March 18, 2020, after residents were ordered to shelter in place in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Author Lawrence Wright's new novel imagines a mysterious virus that sweeps the globe. "All I'm doing is examining the world that we live in and extrapolating where it might go," he says. Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

This Is 'Creepy': Lawrence Wright Wishes His Pandemic Novel Had Gotten It Wrong

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: The End Of October

Dear Readers,

The events depicted in The End of October were meant to serve as a cautionary tale. But real life doesn't always wait for warnings. As I write, the entire world is enveloped in a viral disease much like the one I imagined within these pages.

It's been said that the book is a kind of prophecy, but I see it simply as the result of careful research. I asked the question: what is the gravest threat to human civilization? Nuclear war and global warming are existential threats, but throughout history diseases have periodically capsized societies. A century has passed since the 1918 Spanish flu that killed between fifty and a hundred million people. What if something like that returned, in our time, where travel is rapid and cities are densely populated and public health has receded as a primary concern?

I have applied the same rigorous standards that I bring to my nonfiction. Nothing presented here as factual is invented. I interviewed many scientists and epidemiologists who are now at the forefront of America's effort to constrain the pandemic. As for the geopolitics I describe, I merely extended trends I observed in the world to certain logical conclusions. I spoke to top government officials and military figures. Everyone I spoke to shared the concerns I expressed herein; something like this could happen. And now it has.

Of course, this book is a novel. One with heroes and villains and a clock ticking in the background. It was exciting to research and to write, and what I learned gave me hope about our institutions and the people who are working to shield us from catastrophe. I was particularly impressed by the ingenuity and courage of the people who have dedicated their lives to public health. It is to them that the novel is dedicated.

I hope you enjoy it.

Lawrence Wright