The White Plague

  • by Frank Herbert
  • Narrated by Scott Brick
  • 19 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A warm day in Dublin, a crowded street corner. Suddenly, a car-bomb explodes, killing and injuring scores of innocent people. From the second-floor window of a building across the street, a visiting American watches, helpless, as his beloved wife and children are sacrificed in the heat and fire of someone else's cause.From this shocking beginning, the author of the phenomenal Dune series has created a masterpiece. The White Plague is a marvelous and terrifyingly plausible blend of fiction and visionary theme. It tells of one man's revenge, of the man watching from the window who is pushed over the edge of sanity by the senseless murder of his family and who, reappearing several months later as the so-called Madman, unleashes a terrible vengeance upon the human race. John Roe O'Neill is a molecular biologist who has the knowledge, and now the motivation, to devise and disseminate a genetically carried plague - a plague to which, like those that scourged mankind centuries ago, there is no antidote, but one that zeroes in, unerringly and fatally, on women. As the world slowly recognizes the reality of peril, as its politicians and scientists strive desperately to save themselves and their society from the prospect of human extinction, so does Frank Herbert grapple with one of the great themes of contemporary life: the enormous dangers that lurk at the dark edges of science. The White Plague is a prophetic, believable, and utterly compelling novel.

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What the Critics Say

"A tale of awesome revenge." (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
"A speculative intellect with few rivals in modern SF." (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good story once through

The White Plague is a decent story, well told, with good narration. It's especially interesting for its portrayal of the terrorist mentality from the perspective of the 1970s and 80s, when the most commonly reported terrorist attacks were those of the IRA and the Palestinians.

Given the advances in genetic engineering since those days, I suspect that Herbert barely scratched the surface of what could be accomplished now by a brilliant, or even mediocre, genetic engineer, but I give him high grades for his vision of the future. Another aspect of the "let's knock off a huge percentage of the human race and see what happens" genre is how the aftermath is handled. What is the author's vision of the remolded world? Again, Herbert does a credible job imagining what things would be like and throws in some interesting twists. We are allowed to see the new world as it is walked by the protagonist. This could become tedious, but is instead well paced and interesting.

In the final analysis, however, I only give the book three stars. While the story is well told, I really didn't care a lot about any of the characters. For that reason, I was ready for the book to be over about two hours before it ended. I doubt that I will ever bother to listen to this book again, and that is something I really look for in audio books.
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- DJM

The difference between sentiment and sentimental:

"The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following:
Sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a
rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when
swerving away from the rabbit hits a pedestrian."

Frank Herbert's The White Plague holds up remarkably well over the decades. I recently took a class in genetics and the plague the "Madman" creates seems completely plausible to me.

The story starts out with John Roe O'Neill in Ireland doing research when his wife and twins are blown up in an IRA bombing. He is a genetic engineer and in his grief he splits personalities and becomes the "Madman" John O'Donnell. He creates a disease that will kill only women but make all the men carriers. He tries to keep it in Ireland(the bombers), Great Britain(the cause of the strife),and Libya (the training ground), but it becomes impossible to contain.

The story shifts to the various scientists, governments and religious factions to see how they will all handle a world without women, or with women a scarcity, if they can find a cure in time.

The only parts of the story I disliked was the young woman in the tank and even the women left are all treated as "breeders" or conniving bitches. The best female character in the story was a scientist who dies early on.

Herbert's vision of life in a plague state is very plausible and frightening. The main theme of the book seems to be that we should fear knowledge and progress, as long as man is an imperfect beast.

Scott Brick does a wonderful job with the accents in his narration.
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- Kristi Richardson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-29-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio