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    From Avian Flu Diary blog by Michael Coston, Review of THE THIN WHITE LINE, new book by Craig DiLouie (

    I always approach pandemic fiction, whether it be books or movies, with a good deal of trepidation. My hopes are that the writers will know the subject, that the story and characters will be believable, and that the plot not rely on a Deus Ex Machina, or improbable solution at the finale to "save the world."

    I'm almost always disappointed.

    Not so with The Thin White Line. The author obviously knows the subject well, the plot and the characters are believable, and no miracle occurs in the last chapter. In fact, just like in real life, the book leaves the world staring into an uncertain future.

    Although a fictional novel, The Thin White Line is written as if it were a text book, a post mortem, written just months after the first pandemic wave has ended. The world is slowly recovering, but still faces a possible second and third pandemic wave.

    The story is told through a narrative voice, and through interviews with survivors. Most of the action takes place in Canada, and little is said of the rest of the world, perhaps accurately reflecting the "fog of war" that would exist during a global crisis.

    The author's choice to make the first pandemic wave roughly equivalent to the second, and worst wave of the 1918 Spanish flu, may disappoint some readers. While not an apocalyptic vision, the effects of the pandemic described are quite bad enough.

    The Thin White Line refers to the men and women who work in the health care system, and it is through their eyes that much of the story is told. This book is in many ways a tribute to the dedication and resilience of doctors and nurses who will be on the front lines during a pandemic.

    The book is meticulously researched, with scores of footnotes, and a couple of dozen photographs and charts, giving it the appearance of a textbook, not a novel. This was a bold choice by the author, as it probably reduces the book's commercial appeal, but helps to legitimize the subject matter.

    This is not your typical "disaster novel," with a beautiful and brilliant virologist who stays one step ahead of nefarious agents of Big Pharma while creating a vaccine to save the world . . . it is an unflinching, realistic, and informative look at how Canada might fare during a pandemic.

    Health care workers (HCW's) may find this book of particular interest because it delves into the conflicts between "duty" and family during a pandemic.

    It describes, in detail, the dangers and emotional toll of working in a pandemic. The book also briefly addresses the issue of the government forcing HCWs (Health Care Workers) to work.

    The book is well written, although the format of the book doesn't allow the author to display much in the way of literary skills. The narrative voice is unobtrusive, and the interviews vary enough in viewpoint to be believable. The author manages to make the scientific and historical information easy to digest, which considering the subject, is an accomplishment.

    While I appreciated this book, I recognize that it won't be everyone's cup of tea. This isn't a breezy summer read, or a vicarious thrill ride. Readers who are expecting a cheesy movie-of-the-week plot line and characters will be disappointed.

    For those who are willing to take more thoughtful journey through a fictional pandemic, however, the Thin White Line fills the bill.

  • #2

    and Canada is being considered one of the best prepared countries
    in the world !
    Well, maybe that's the reason why it's about Canada - or better:
    there could be a common reason for the Canadian level of
    panflu-preparedness and the anticipated interest in the book.
    (SARS in Toronto)

    Now, such a book is only for those who can't comprehend the mere
    statistical numbers of potential victims and damage.
    I would prefer these numbers as a summary.
    I'm interested in expert panflu damage estimates
    my current links: ILI-charts:


    • #3

      Gotta go find my copy today being a health care worker........


      • #4

        Reading it now. This is what has stood out for me so far.

        The story is being told by survivors including HCW. It seems to be written after only one wave of infection has occurred. HCW had been mandated to work by law. Those surviving HCW that did not work, are being arrested, a distressing scenario since many will have had conflicting responsibilities regarding family safety.

        IMO, he actually paints an optimistic picture for the number of uninfected. I'm thinking it will be far worse than this, but then this is being told after only the first wave if I have the story straight, so presuming more waves have not occurred yet, and it could end up being much worse like the 2nd wave in 1918.

        Personally, I can not see that there will be enough soldiers and police left healthy to force anyone to work or arrest them later for not doing so.

        I hope more of you will check it out, and see what you think.