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China Syndrome
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About the Author

Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of seven previous books, including the novel Triburbia and the acclaimed memoir Boy Alone. His award-winning writing has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Best American Short Stories 2009 and 2013, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012. Born in Kobe, Japan, he has lived in Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and currently lives in Pacific Palisades, California, with his wife, Silka, and their daughters, Esmee and Lola.

Reviews

Greenfeld's ground zero perspective on SARS-he was editing Time Asia when the first rumors of a virulent disease sweeping mainland Chinese hospitals hit his desk-brings reportorial immediacy to this chronicle of how epidemiologists realized that the cases of "atypical pneumonia" scattered throughout Asia were the initial wave of severe acute respiratory syndrome, a new strain of avian flu. Greenfeld's portraits present multiple angles on the story, such as a young man who falls sick after emigrating to the big city and a doctor who bravely volunteers to treat patients despite the huge risk of infection. The author also describes his own reactions while trying to keep his family and magazine staff safe in Hong Kong amid growing panic, and muses on how congested urban areas provide a perfect breeding ground for viruses. But he repeatedly returns to the most egregious factor in the disease's spread: the silence from (and outright suppression of information by) the Chinese government during the earliest stages of the epidemic. SARS could have been much worse, he warns, and we almost certainly will see its like again-and for all the heroic struggles to contain the danger, his final prognosis is not a happy one. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

In late 2002, a virus passed from animal to man and emerged in China as the cause of severe (or sudden) acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). By late spring 2003, it had spread through much of the world before being contained. Most fatalities occurred in mainland China, where 5,327 people were infected and 349 died, and in Hong Kong, where 299 died. Greenfeld (Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation) was the Hong Kong-based editor of Time Asia during the outbreak, and here he traces the origins and spread of the disease in a chronological drumbeat that sometimes follows the events by day. Scientific competition to be the first to identify the cause and then to learn as much as possible about it was hindered at every step by a Chinese government reluctant to admit to any problem. Nonetheless, the Time Asia staff eventually gained inside sources and helped unravel the cover-up. Greenfeld moves quickly, often conjuring a thriller, and his personal and professional involvement give his account, which covers much of the same ground as Thomas Abraham's Twenty-First Century Plague: The Story of SARS, a unique perspective. Recommended for all public libraries.-Dick Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Medical Lib., Denver Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

A compelling writer...China Syndrome echoes the sort of gritty, breathless thriller pace that Richard Preston employed 10 years ago in The Hot Zone.--Washington Post
A taut scientific thriller, well told.--Kirkus Reviews
A work of riveting, relevant journalism...a dexterous approach that recalls Randy Shilts's AIDS history And the Band Played On.--The Village Voice
Greenfeld offers little hope that the Chinese have learned any lesson, for it's back to business-as-usual for Shenzhen's wild-animal trade, and he ponders the nature and purpose of viruses as he paints a rather gloomy picture of what we and the World Health Organization can expect next.--Booklist (starred review)
Greenfeld's ground zero perspective on SARS...brings reportorial immediacy to this chronicle of how epidemiologists realized that the cases of "atypical pneumonia" scattered throughout Asia were the initial wave of severe acute respiratory syndrome, a new strain of avian flu.--Publishers Weekly
"A sensational minute-by-minute account of fear and heroism in the battle against a pandemic that almost happened--and could happen any day now. It is also one of the best books I have read about another modern mystery, day-to-day life in China today."--Richard Reeves, author of Ronald Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination
"A thrilling, important book. . . . Anyone who cares about how Avian bird flu or some other future infectious epidemic may occur, and anyone who wants to understand how China works, must read this book."--Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
"An excellent and in-depth look at a frightening episode--a bullet that the world dodged--and not insignificantly, a fascinating and penetrating look into modern China."--John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza
"China Syndrome is a timely and frightening reminder that our increasingly heavily populated, high-speed and mobile world has become one big Petri dish of potential pestilence. The only antidote is an active and open media and a responsive and truthful system of public information and health. This book is both a first step towards that goal and a fascinating read."--Orville Schell, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, and author of Mandate of Heaven
"This book is a parable for our times."--New Statesman
"Fine reporting...a scientific whodunnit....Taro Greenfeld does well to convey the sense of excitement of the hunt to identify Sars."--Financial Times
"With The China Syndrome, Greenfeld provides both a fascinating glimpse of life in modern-day China and an account of a pandemic averted that has all the suspense of a good thriller."--New Atlantis

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