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A gripping and timely book about the transmission of highly dangerous diseases from animal to human populations.

First, a horse in Brisbane falls ill: fever, swelling, bloody froth. Then thirteen others drop dead. The foreman at the stables becomes ill and the trainer dies. What is going on?

As globalization spreads and as we destroy the ancient ecosystems, we encounter strange and dangerous infections that originate in animals but that can be transmitted to humans. Diseases that were contained are being set free and the results are potentially catastrophic.

In a journey that takes him from southern China to the Congo, from Bangladesh to Australia, David Quammen tracks these infections to their source and asks what we can do to prevent some new pandemic spreading across the face of the earth.


Quammen’s book is compelling and shows that there are many candidates out there vying to be the next pandemic

Euan Lawson, British Journal of General Practice

A frightening and fascinating masterpiece of science reporting that reads like a detective story

Walter Isaacson

Quammen has a wide range of knowledge, an agile pen, and a generous heart

James Gorman, New York Times Book Review

A tremendous book...this gives you all you need to know and all you should know. Quammen’s research and the analysis make sensationalism unnecessary

Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

Mr Quammen is not just among our best science writers but among our best writers, period...that he hasn’t won a non-fiction National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize is an embarrassment... Quammen is a patient explainer and a winning observer, he has a novelistic flair for describing his fellow humans... Quammen, combining physical and intellectual adventure, wraps his canny explorations into powerful moral witness

Dwight Garner, New York Times

One of that rare breed of science journalists who blend exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling... This is a timely, serious and impressive work that marks the maturation of a field of microbiology

Nathan Wolfe, Nature

Terrific…the stories of the victims and the scientists are told in astonishing detail

Caroline Ash, Guardian

He [Quammen] ranges with ease over decades and continents, drawing upon years of interviews and field trips with scientists...[he] is a lively writer and a good detective, tracing diseases from their first appearance back to their origins—in some cases, still unsettled... Quammen does not shy away from the lurid question of the “next big one” that will be on readers’ minds from the start

The Economist



Chilling… {A} brilliant, devastating book

Christopher Hudson, Daily Mail

Let's not beat around the bush. This is an extraordinary book. David Quammen has woven a story of incredible complexity; a detective story with a difference, with a host of murderers – all of them real

Dr Alice Roberts, Observer

A hugely entertaining book

John S. Oxford, The Lancet

A cliffhanger account of dangerous zoonotic viruses spilling over from animals to humans, and the researchers who study these pathogens

Annie Proulx, Guardian

A gripping, literate adventure story

Tim Radford, Guardian

A respectable and highly readable science writer

The Economist

One of the best pieces of science writing I’ve read for years… The detective work is brilliant, and stunning to read. He gets it, every step of the way, and explains it beautifully

William Leith, Evening Standard


Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

A collection of stories about diseases, called zoonoses, that humans acquire from other animals

Caroline Ash, Guardian

Part detective story, part in-depth exploration of the realms of microbiology, Quammen mixes fact with enticing storytelling to provide a fascinating and timely read

Big Issue in the North

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    August 15, 2013


    592 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    October 4, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    592 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by David Quammen

The Chimp and the River
The Song Of The Dodo


Guns, Germs And Steel
Climate Change and Social Justice
Confessions of an Eco Sinner
The Final Call
Human Planet
Sunburnt Country
A World of Three Zeroes: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Carbon Emissions
Pale Rider
Adventures in the Anthropocene
Ecology And Experience
Nature Wars
Rising Plague
There Is A Garden In The Mind
Earth Conference One
Fallout from Fukushima
Germs, Biological Warfare, Vaccinations
Deep Ecology Movement
Ecology And Consciousness