The White Plague by Frank Herbert **

Posted by Crow on
Book Reviews

I read this novel because I am a fan of the Dune saga. I would lump this stand-alone novel along with Herbert’s final two Dune books as one of his lesser works. Honestly it’s too bad Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson weren’t around to help when he wrote this thing. Their talent at crafting Hollywood style page turners would have tightened up this overly long yarn.

Herbert was a man of great ideas, but his execution this time was less than satisfactory. I assume that Herbert read The Stand which came out four years before this and decided to do his own version of the end times. The idea here is a madman who creates a virus that only kills women. He wanted it contained only to Ireland, England, and Libya but of course it spreads to the entire world and then to other mammals. By the time the plague is at it’s height, the male population is at 10,000 for every one woman. The world descends into chaos and martial law and places like Africa are simply bombed, blockaded, and written off.

The novel drags in the middle quite annoyingly as we follow characters walking around, doing absolutely nothing interesting. We never have a clear protagonist in the story either. Interesting characters like the POTUS, show up here and there every 50 or 100 pages and then fade away again. If Herbert had just picked one major character to follow the novel would been a much better read. The setting of early ‘80s Northern Ireland with it’s IRA bombings is dated in 2015 as is the book’s references to computers. In one part of the story a computer program has to be physically flown on a plane from the U.S. to Ireland. Sounds crazy now in our era of broadband.

I’m surprised an editor didn’t get Herbert to shorten this thing up. Entire chapters could have been eliminated and the middle of the book goes nowhere. There’s a good story to be told here, but it needed another couple of drafts. Still it’s an interesting book, as most post-apocalyptic stories usually are. Things would go to hell quickly no doubt about it. However I found the story needlessly depressing with no redemption for the human race by the end. If anything this book does at least provide a warning, a man-made plague is very likely to be the thing that ends the human story once and for all.

I think any Irishophile would get more out of it as it takes place almost entirely on the Emerald Isle. There are many references to Irish history, culture, and of course their hatred of the English.

2 mutated strains of DNA outta 5

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