David Quammen’s book has a touch of the big, sweeping suspense novel about it. The next scary new microbe (think the SARS or Ebola viruses) most likely lurks in some animal, waiting to spill over to people. And human behavior, explosively populating the planet and pushing into remote landscapes, is speeding the arrival of the next outbreak. Serious stuff, but writer Quammen mixes gentle explications of disease ecology with deft storytelling.
There’s drama: An accidental needle prick lands a researcher in the U.S. Army’s Fort Detrick quarantine “slammer” for weeks as her husband and three-year-old son wait to see if she’ll die of Ebola. A tourist returning from Africa self-diagnoses via the Internet.
And there are characters. A former chef-trainee and furniture restorer switches to the academic study of bat diseases. A