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A spare and gripping novel about the next pandemic--completed by the award-winning Jim Shepard before COVID-19 even emerged--that reads like a fictional sequel to our current crisis. In a tiny settlement on the west coast of Greenland, 11-year-old Aleq and his best friend, frequent trespassers at a mining site exposed to mountains of long-buried and thawing permafrost, carr A spare and gripping novel about the next pandemic--completed by the award-winning Jim Shepard before COVID-19 even emerged--that reads like a fictional sequel to our current crisis. In a tiny settlement on the west coast of Greenland, 11-year-old Aleq and his best friend, frequent trespassers at a mining site exposed to mountains of long-buried and thawing permafrost, carry what they pick up back into their village, and from there Shepard's harrowing and deeply moving story follows Aleq, one of the few survivors of the initial outbreak, through his identification and radical isolation as the likely index patient. While he shoulders both a crushing guilt for what he may have done and the hopes of a world looking for answers, we also meet two Epidemic Intelligence Service investigators dispatched from the CDC--Jeannine, an epidemiologist and daughter of Algerian immigrants, and Danice, an M.D. and lab wonk. As they attempt to head off the cataclysm, Jeannine--moving from the Greenland hospital overwhelmed with the first patients to a Level 4 high-security facility in the Rocky Mountains--does what she can to sustain Aleq. Both a chamber piece of multiple intimate perspectives and a more omniscient glimpse into the megastructures (political, cultural, and biological) that inform such a disaster, the novel reminds us of the crucial bonds that form in the midst of catastrophe, as a child and several hypereducated adults learn what it means to provide adequate support for those they love. In the process, they celebrate the precious worlds they might lose, and help to shape others that may survive.


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A spare and gripping novel about the next pandemic--completed by the award-winning Jim Shepard before COVID-19 even emerged--that reads like a fictional sequel to our current crisis. In a tiny settlement on the west coast of Greenland, 11-year-old Aleq and his best friend, frequent trespassers at a mining site exposed to mountains of long-buried and thawing permafrost, carr A spare and gripping novel about the next pandemic--completed by the award-winning Jim Shepard before COVID-19 even emerged--that reads like a fictional sequel to our current crisis. In a tiny settlement on the west coast of Greenland, 11-year-old Aleq and his best friend, frequent trespassers at a mining site exposed to mountains of long-buried and thawing permafrost, carry what they pick up back into their village, and from there Shepard's harrowing and deeply moving story follows Aleq, one of the few survivors of the initial outbreak, through his identification and radical isolation as the likely index patient. While he shoulders both a crushing guilt for what he may have done and the hopes of a world looking for answers, we also meet two Epidemic Intelligence Service investigators dispatched from the CDC--Jeannine, an epidemiologist and daughter of Algerian immigrants, and Danice, an M.D. and lab wonk. As they attempt to head off the cataclysm, Jeannine--moving from the Greenland hospital overwhelmed with the first patients to a Level 4 high-security facility in the Rocky Mountains--does what she can to sustain Aleq. Both a chamber piece of multiple intimate perspectives and a more omniscient glimpse into the megastructures (political, cultural, and biological) that inform such a disaster, the novel reminds us of the crucial bonds that form in the midst of catastrophe, as a child and several hypereducated adults learn what it means to provide adequate support for those they love. In the process, they celebrate the precious worlds they might lose, and help to shape others that may survive.

30 review for Phase Six

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 Terrifying in its realistic scenario. Covid is in the past, but are we prepared for the next pandemic? On the west coast of Greenland, in a small village, two young boys are curious about a new mine being dug. Eleven year old Aleq and his friend Malik find a old rock, a rock exposed from the melting permafrost. In such an innocent way a new pandemic is unleashed. We follow Aleq and two young, newly minted CDC virologists, as they try to find what kind of new virus, bacteria is now killing at 3.5 Terrifying in its realistic scenario. Covid is in the past, but are we prepared for the next pandemic? On the west coast of Greenland, in a small village, two young boys are curious about a new mine being dug. Eleven year old Aleq and his friend Malik find a old rock, a rock exposed from the melting permafrost. In such an innocent way a new pandemic is unleashed. We follow Aleq and two young, newly minted CDC virologists, as they try to find what kind of new virus, bacteria is now killing at faster and faster rates. The gathering of information, the methodology used to try to make sense of what they gathered, the challenge of what finding something that works as a treatment. As climate change brings about further melting, exposing older illnesses that have long been buried, the world will be more and more exposed to things long hidden. As we are such a connected world, things spread faster and wider. We don't know what's there, nor are we ready for what will be unleashed. Climate change is an even more wide spread recipe for disaster than just climatic events. Who knows what is hidden and where? ARC by netgalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Fourteen months into a worldwide pandemic, this may be the last book you want to read. Jim Shepard’s new novel, “Phase Six,” takes place not too far in the future. He imagines that we learned nothing from covid-19, which feels like a fair assessment of a half-vaccinated nation still bickering about Donald Trump’s chaotic mishandling of the crisis. In Shepard’s terrifying scenario, we’re out of chances. We’ve encroached on the natural world everywhere; we’ve thrown the climate into chaos; and we’v Fourteen months into a worldwide pandemic, this may be the last book you want to read. Jim Shepard’s new novel, “Phase Six,” takes place not too far in the future. He imagines that we learned nothing from covid-19, which feels like a fair assessment of a half-vaccinated nation still bickering about Donald Trump’s chaotic mishandling of the crisis. In Shepard’s terrifying scenario, we’re out of chances. We’ve encroached on the natural world everywhere; we’ve thrown the climate into chaos; and we’ve developed an international travel industry that functions like a giant airborne petri dish. Deadly microbes that took months or years to travel across Europe in an earlier era now scurry around the planet in an afternoon. The distances and times are abbreviated, and so is the old aphorism: Those who fail to learn from history are doomed — period. “Phase Six” begins in the little village of Ilimanaq in Greenland, where new mining projects have rapidly expanded, probing ever deeper into the thawing ground. Eleven-year-old Aleq and his friend Malik are playing around one of those mining camps when they spot a deep cavity in the shiny rocks. And so this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper from a long-dead. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    Greenland is ground zero for an outbreak the makes COVID-19 look like the sniffles. Contracting this virus is a death sentence except for one young boy who is immune. Basically, this novel describes the work of a CDC epidemiologist and an M.D. as they try to figure out how this nastiness works and how to outsmart it. There are several very human moments as well as criticisms of the government’s inability to prepare adequately for the next pandemic, but there are equally as many that read like a Greenland is ground zero for an outbreak the makes COVID-19 look like the sniffles. Contracting this virus is a death sentence except for one young boy who is immune. Basically, this novel describes the work of a CDC epidemiologist and an M.D. as they try to figure out how this nastiness works and how to outsmart it. There are several very human moments as well as criticisms of the government’s inability to prepare adequately for the next pandemic, but there are equally as many that read like a textbook for a 101 course. And the ending, much like a current pandemic, leaves much to be desired. I’m guessing this was intentional.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    This is the first post-COVID, "next pandemic" book I've run across, and it is fucking terrifying in it's "you ain't seen nothing yet" believability. I've longed believe that as the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps melt and Siberia thaws, there are legions of ancient viruses and bacteria just waiting to be unleashed on a merely-200,000 year old humanity. And yup, this is pretty much how it's going to go down. Shepard has a dry, almost scientific style of writing that works well with the story, (alt This is the first post-COVID, "next pandemic" book I've run across, and it is fucking terrifying in it's "you ain't seen nothing yet" believability. I've longed believe that as the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps melt and Siberia thaws, there are legions of ancient viruses and bacteria just waiting to be unleashed on a merely-200,000 year old humanity. And yup, this is pretty much how it's going to go down. Shepard has a dry, almost scientific style of writing that works well with the story, (although does get a little dense towards the back when he gets into the virological weeds). My only hesitance in giving this the full 5 is with the finale itself, which was - to me at least - rather abrupt and unresolved, to the point that I turned the page expecting another chapter, only to find four pages of (admittedly well-deserved) "acknowledgements" instead; I literally had to then go back and reread the last page and say, "okay, so I guess that was the end."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa D.

    It was exciting to revive an ARC of this novel as it had been on my shelf for just a few weeks. The start was engaging and pulled me in, but started to lose me when it shifted focus off patient zero whose story could fill an entire novel on its own. That being said, there was a lot to learn and brought some perspective to all the work behind the scenes when a pandemic strikes. Who are the people who chose to rush in and why? How easy is it for a pandemic to spread? Why are our medical systems so It was exciting to revive an ARC of this novel as it had been on my shelf for just a few weeks. The start was engaging and pulled me in, but started to lose me when it shifted focus off patient zero whose story could fill an entire novel on its own. That being said, there was a lot to learn and brought some perspective to all the work behind the scenes when a pandemic strikes. Who are the people who chose to rush in and why? How easy is it for a pandemic to spread? Why are our medical systems so woefully unprepared? Def. worth the read, but not the pace and draw I need from books right now.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    A truly chilling fictional account of a global pandemic (is that redundant?) that makes COVID-19 seem like a walk in the park. Mining activities in Greenland release a pathogen eons old from its place deep inside the permafrost. Told in spare prose, unemotionally, we see the pandemic unfolding from the points of view of two scientists sent by the CDC to ground zero, and the 11-year-old Inuit boy who is the only survivor from his village. Credible picture of the international bodies jockeying for A truly chilling fictional account of a global pandemic (is that redundant?) that makes COVID-19 seem like a walk in the park. Mining activities in Greenland release a pathogen eons old from its place deep inside the permafrost. Told in spare prose, unemotionally, we see the pandemic unfolding from the points of view of two scientists sent by the CDC to ground zero, and the 11-year-old Inuit boy who is the only survivor from his village. Credible picture of the international bodies jockeying for position, trying to come up with effective safety protocols and discover what the heck this thing is, a truly lethal microbe that is unlike anything mankind has encountered before. Like I said, very scary. Makes one wonder what is waiting under the melting permafrost as global warming accelerates.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cya_all_day_dream_about_books

    The books is based on the assumption that the human civilization has learnt nothing from Covid-19. It’s based in a time period not very far after COVID-19, which is evident from the mention and cross referencing it many times to compare it to the pandemic that the future world is facing in the novel. But this time it’s in the frigid zones of a remote village in Greenland which spreads some infection. All the people infected face severe symptoms and are dead within short span with the exception o The books is based on the assumption that the human civilization has learnt nothing from Covid-19. It’s based in a time period not very far after COVID-19, which is evident from the mention and cross referencing it many times to compare it to the pandemic that the future world is facing in the novel. But this time it’s in the frigid zones of a remote village in Greenland which spreads some infection. All the people infected face severe symptoms and are dead within short span with the exception of few survivors like Aleq, who somehow is resistant to the infection after initial outbreak and has been taken to the Rocky Mountains for finding why. His family, friends and all whom he knew in his country are dead because of the virus and he has now been uprooted to a different country for knowing about the infection. Two investigators Jeannine and Danica have been tasked with researching about the pandemic spread. The novel is short and to the point and hence was a fast read for me. It looked liked the author summarized the entire future pandemic in a nutshell.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I read it in one sitting. Tense, fast-paced, very moving, from one of my favorite living authors. Is it one of his best? Probably not. But that's a high bar. Shepard's gift is his ability to take a global crisis and scale it down to the human level - as he says, the "worms-eye view." The poor schmucks caught on the front line, in over their heads, trying their best. I read it in one sitting. Tense, fast-paced, very moving, from one of my favorite living authors. Is it one of his best? Probably not. But that's a high bar. Shepard's gift is his ability to take a global crisis and scale it down to the human level - as he says, the "worms-eye view." The poor schmucks caught on the front line, in over their heads, trying their best.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    This is the second pandemic story I have read while living through COVID. I'm not sure why I do this to myself. Interesting story about an outbreak that starts and Greenland and quickly moves around Earth. More character driven, with the focus on scientists trying to solve the problem while also dealing with the stress and emotions involved. This is the second pandemic story I have read while living through COVID. I'm not sure why I do this to myself. Interesting story about an outbreak that starts and Greenland and quickly moves around Earth. More character driven, with the focus on scientists trying to solve the problem while also dealing with the stress and emotions involved.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Scott L

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Pretty good book but the ending could have been a lot better. A solid 3.5

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marc Malone

    Ostensibly a book about a pandemic. And an enjoyable read of that kind. But it’s more so about relationships, how we sacrifice them, what we sacrifice for them, and what happens without them. The last two pages are breathtaking.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ginny

    A breathtaking beginning, a science lesson middle and a confusing ending. The story is a warning- climate change will kill us, if not by our own irresponsibility, then by pathogens that emerge from the devastation we have wrought. Two young boys set the story in motion when they sneak into a new mining dig in their small town in Greenland. People start dying. horrible deaths. Then two women researchers from the CDC come to look for the cause of the epidemic. The mysterious pathogen spreads and so A breathtaking beginning, a science lesson middle and a confusing ending. The story is a warning- climate change will kill us, if not by our own irresponsibility, then by pathogens that emerge from the devastation we have wrought. Two young boys set the story in motion when they sneak into a new mining dig in their small town in Greenland. People start dying. horrible deaths. Then two women researchers from the CDC come to look for the cause of the epidemic. The mysterious pathogen spreads and soon it is a pandemic. Mr. Shepard has the skill to pull this story off, in all its’ dimensions. His writing is terse, effective and even humorous, at times. But he falls short in a few ways. He asks the reader to accept the close relationship between the two women, but there’s no basis for it. His scientific explanations are above my pay grade, but the discoveries seem random to me. I think I get the ending, but it’s definitely open to interpretation. I understand that the book was written before COVID-19 and that the author later inserted info about it and made his story about a second pandemic that occurs soon after COVID-19. This explains the lack of strict protocols for prevention, the spotty cooperation among medical entities and the poor coordination of public education. He writes that we learned nothing from the COVID pandemic. I hope he is wrong.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    Just as the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to take hold last year, New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright’s novel, THE END OF OCTOBER, provided a frighteningly prescient foretaste of some of what the world might be facing. Now, with cases falling and hope rising, Jim Shepard’s disturbing novel, PHASE SIX, arrives to inject a note of realism into the prevailing optimistic atmosphere. The next time --- and it’s almost certain there will be a next time --- could be worse. Much wors Just as the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to take hold last year, New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright’s novel, THE END OF OCTOBER, provided a frighteningly prescient foretaste of some of what the world might be facing. Now, with cases falling and hope rising, Jim Shepard’s disturbing novel, PHASE SIX, arrives to inject a note of realism into the prevailing optimistic atmosphere. The next time --- and it’s almost certain there will be a next time --- could be worse. Much worse. The pathogen that wreaks havoc in PHASE SIX (the title refers to the World Health Organization’s highest pandemic level) emerges in a tiny fishing settlement in Greenland, where aggressive efforts to mine rare earth deposits --- ironically to support the green economy --- are underway. One of those drilling projects releases “a cluster of molecules that had previously thrived in the respiratory tract of an early variant of the Bering goose and that had been trapped with some throat tissue in the crystalline framework during the Holocene glaciation.” Once 11-year-old Aleq and his best friend Malik inhale some of those spores at the site, and exposed miners depart for airports around the world, the race between disease and humanity is on. The novel focuses most of its attention on the efforts of two young CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers --- epidemiologist Jeannine Dziri and Danice Torrone, a public health physician and self-described “medical detective” --- who dub themselves the “Junior Certain Death Squad.” They’re quickly dispatched to Greenland, where they discover that, along with its ability to spread rapidly (five weeks into the pandemic, some 14 million people have been infected worldwide), the disease has a terrifying power to kill quickly and with a lethality approaching 40 percent, far above the level of the coronavirus. As Shepard describes it, the work of scientists like Jeannine and Danice is painstaking and often frustrating. It seems to Danice that “every third clue introduced a confounder, an element that seemed to drive the investigation off track. And each pattern that was initially found significant devolved into a maddening knot of ambiguities.” Their efforts are hampered by the fact that, as the settlement’s sole survivor, Aleq’s devastation over the deaths of his family members, his suspicion of the investigators’ motives, and, on a most basic level, his inability to speak English impede his desire and ability to cooperate in their investigation. Shepard portrays a world in which few lessons seem to have been learned from our encounter with COVID-19. “Countries were like people: they didn’t value health until they lost it. And then once they got it back, they returned to their old complacency,” he writes. He doesn’t dwell on the social and economic effects of the pandemic, but having lived through 2020’s quarantines and lockdowns, there’s no need to say much more than “Amazon was unable to ship” or to mention a run on an antibiotic that had “generated pharmacy riots in seven cities in the South and Midwest” to paint a discomfiting picture of rising fear and chaos. In short story collections like THE WORLD TO COME and YOU THINK THAT’S BAD, Shepard has displayed an affinity for stories that pit humans against the forces of nature, like the Dutch hydraulic engineer in “The Netherlands Lives with Water,” fighting to stave off an epic storm threatening Rotterdam, or the workers on a collapsing radar tower in the North Sea in “Safety Tips for Living Alone.” PHASE SIX is built on a similar foundation, as Jeannine and Danice bring their scientific knowledge and inexhaustible grit to bear on the project of outwitting the bacteria. And like his short stories, Shepard’s novel bears the mark of prodigious research, with dozens of books, articles and interviews listed as source material. But he’s also an accomplished storyteller, and he avoids the common mistake of less talented writers of periodic information dumps that highlight the author’s diligence at the cost of slowing the novel’s narrative momentum. Anyone looking for reassurance from Shepard would be well-advised to search elsewhere. Though he’s never specific about the death toll wreaked by his imaginary pathogen, he cites a 2006 survey in which 90 percent of the epidemiologists polled predicted a pandemic that would kill more than 150 million people in one of the next two generations. “All of those pathogens that over time we’ve de-adapted to --- we keep sticking our noses everywhere, they’re all coming back,” Danice warns. “Who would you put your money on? Humans have been around for what, two hundred thousand years? And bacteria for like three and a half billion.” PHASE SIX is an impressive cautionary tale, and we can only hope that some of the people whose efforts might make a difference in preventing the next public health catastrophe will take the time to read it. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg

  14. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    Well, that was freakin' terrifying. Know how a certain Former Guy dismantled virtually the entire US pandemic response apparatus and literally threw away the response plan developed by previous administrations over the course of two decades? Well, now imagine that the government, having stumbled its way through to the other side of the Covid pandemic, didn't bother to maintain funding or fully restaff that apparatus. Know how the world has ignored all the signs of impending doom from climate cha Well, that was freakin' terrifying. Know how a certain Former Guy dismantled virtually the entire US pandemic response apparatus and literally threw away the response plan developed by previous administrations over the course of two decades? Well, now imagine that the government, having stumbled its way through to the other side of the Covid pandemic, didn't bother to maintain funding or fully restaff that apparatus. Know how the world has ignored all the signs of impending doom from climate change and has basically just kept on keepin' on and making it worse, expressing dismay over melting ice caps and rising sea levels but doing nothing about it? Know how certain politicians and their supporters keep denigrating solar and wind power and demanding more and more fossil fuels and other unsustainable energy sources, drilling and mining deeper and deeper into the earth's permafrost without regard to what might be exposed to the atmosphere? Shepard deploys a dispassionate writing style, a la science reporter, to describe what happens when a wholly unprepared world confronts a pathogen unleashed from the permafrost, one far worse than Covid and its variants. His protagonists are a CDC epidemiologist and physician who are working 24/7 to identify the pathogen and a cure or treatment. He invests his characters with just enough human emotion to make the reader care about them and to prevent the novel from reading like an article in a scientific journal. The novel does have its flaws, and I'd really only give it 3.5 stars. But Shepard's timeliness is tough to argue with, and he imagines an all-too-realistic scenario for the next pandemic the planet's population will face.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ned Frederick

    Phase Six presents the reader with a challenge. Do you really want to read about the next pandemic while you’re dealing with COVID 19 every day? My personal response was, “why not”, if it’s a good book… and phase Six is indeed a good book. This spare novel is brimming with lively prose with a nose for a good simile. The subject matter pre-supposes an urgent, propulsive narrative, but author Shepard also takes the time to probe the depths of this wonderful slate of characters. If you’re into it, Phase Six presents the reader with a challenge. Do you really want to read about the next pandemic while you’re dealing with COVID 19 every day? My personal response was, “why not”, if it’s a good book… and phase Six is indeed a good book. This spare novel is brimming with lively prose with a nose for a good simile. The subject matter pre-supposes an urgent, propulsive narrative, but author Shepard also takes the time to probe the depths of this wonderful slate of characters. If you’re into it, as i am, the epidemiological sleuthing is a treat and authentic to a fault. The ineptitude of the CDC and destructive behavior of the Media is also on full display as is social-media-nurtured political siloing and that special aptitude for aggressively entrenched ignorance, that we witness daily in our current pandemic. I love the way the author was able to develop the heroic grunts in the front lines of the war against the pandemic. They came across as so real, so textured, so human. Oh, and the foxhole humor is pitch perfect. Phase Six is about the next pandemic, but it also can be read like a counter factual history of the COVID 19 pandemic if SARS-CoV-2 had instead had been more infections and with a Case Fatality Rate of 50+%. Of the half-dozen novels of pandemic fiction I’ve read over the last year, Phase Six stands out as the best so far.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Dunlap

    A small village in Greenland is Ground Zero for a new pandemic that quickly envelops the entire world. When Dr. Jeannine Dziri and epidemiologist Danice Torrone, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, arrive in Ilimanaq, they find the entire community decimated...except for eleven-year-old Aleq. Why was he, alone, spared when everyone else -- including Aleq's grandparents and his best friend Malik -- were not? The traumatized boy is silent, but answers are needed. Meanwhile, the disease is s A small village in Greenland is Ground Zero for a new pandemic that quickly envelops the entire world. When Dr. Jeannine Dziri and epidemiologist Danice Torrone, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, arrive in Ilimanaq, they find the entire community decimated...except for eleven-year-old Aleq. Why was he, alone, spared when everyone else -- including Aleq's grandparents and his best friend Malik -- were not? The traumatized boy is silent, but answers are needed. Meanwhile, the disease is spreading rapidly, and deaths across the globe are piling up. Can answers be found before millions more are annihilated? -- This book was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in 2020; nevertheless, so much of what transpires within its pages is eerily familiar. There are some sharply etched character portraits in this book -- especially Aleq and the two American investigators -- but, while I found this an interesting reading experience (as well as a quick one!), the author's almost clinical style of writing failed to involve me in the human tragedies unfolding. Perhaps, in the end, it is just too eerily familiar...

  17. 5 out of 5

    James Beggarly

    This is a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks to Goodreads and Knopf for making the book available. This is a book about the next global outbreak after Covid 19. While that might feel like a scary story to jump into right now, the writer always creates such intelligent characters that are a pleasure to follow and this book is no exception. In a small mining town in Greenland some deadly pathogen has been released and one young boy, Aleq, is the only one who survives. The CDC dispatches two women, Jeannin This is a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks to Goodreads and Knopf for making the book available. This is a book about the next global outbreak after Covid 19. While that might feel like a scary story to jump into right now, the writer always creates such intelligent characters that are a pleasure to follow and this book is no exception. In a small mining town in Greenland some deadly pathogen has been released and one young boy, Aleq, is the only one who survives. The CDC dispatches two women, Jeannine and Danice, to try and figure out what the world is now dealing with. It becomes part thriller as the women, and scores of scientists all over the world, try to find a solution to this new killer, but the writer never sacrifices events for characters and we come to admire this young boy and the two women as much as we do the thrilling plot.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Keljo

    This is a very effective pandemic story about a couple of kids finding a cool ancient rock that happens to have a terrible ancient microbe on it. Everything is often cold and clinical, especially the characters. I could see the doctors coming off as detached from other people and laser-focused on what they are doing, but the kid we end up spending time with is also extremely reticent and comes off as cold. The author does a good job of justifying these characterizations, but the personalities wi This is a very effective pandemic story about a couple of kids finding a cool ancient rock that happens to have a terrible ancient microbe on it. Everything is often cold and clinical, especially the characters. I could see the doctors coming off as detached from other people and laser-focused on what they are doing, but the kid we end up spending time with is also extremely reticent and comes off as cold. The author does a good job of justifying these characterizations, but the personalities wind up feeling flat and “samey.” However, I am still rooting for them, and this book is effectively horrifying. From what I understand, this book was completed (or at least conceived) before COVID, but the inclusion of COVID mentions makes this all the more chilling and real. The narrator of the audiobook does a solid job.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pris

    What I liked: a fast paced pandemic novel, about a pathogen which kills and spreads far more easily than covid. Also liked the focus on the microbial and the pathogens. What I would liked to see more of: I felt that this was a novel of missed opportunities. There were lines that were clearly could have become more, but they are just left alone in the text. For instance, at some point, someone remarks that things are taken seriously only when a white person dies. And in addition, the outbreak begi What I liked: a fast paced pandemic novel, about a pathogen which kills and spreads far more easily than covid. Also liked the focus on the microbial and the pathogens. What I would liked to see more of: I felt that this was a novel of missed opportunities. There were lines that were clearly could have become more, but they are just left alone in the text. For instance, at some point, someone remarks that things are taken seriously only when a white person dies. And in addition, the outbreak begins in Greenland and when a Danish physician is interacting with one of the index patients, one of the main characters remarks about colonialism. I felt that the racialised dimension of epidemiology could have been something that could be built upon. There is nothing extraordinary here, and there has been better pandemic novels.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    Conflicted ... Confused ... I wasn't sure how to approach 'Phase Six': If Shepard's book is meant to be a read of "This is what could happen if ...," then we're far too deep into THIS and we've experienced too much for 'Phase Six' to be a future, foreboding harbinger. Or if Shepard's book is meant to be a "snapshot" of sorts of what we've been through so far, my approach to 'Six' becomes less conflicted and leaves me with an understanding of how his book can be read. So, with all of this in mind Conflicted ... Confused ... I wasn't sure how to approach 'Phase Six': If Shepard's book is meant to be a read of "This is what could happen if ...," then we're far too deep into THIS and we've experienced too much for 'Phase Six' to be a future, foreboding harbinger. Or if Shepard's book is meant to be a "snapshot" of sorts of what we've been through so far, my approach to 'Six' becomes less conflicted and leaves me with an understanding of how his book can be read. So, with all of this in mind, I leave 'Phase Six' with this review: It's a good read - a story with the outlines of memorable characters intact but a "sketch" of an apocalyptic world, perhaps, in a first draft with a more fully-realized tale to come.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janis

    I heard the author talk about this book and really looked forward to reading it. And I really enjoyed the first part of the book. But, the gripping tension and suspense of the other pandemic book I read a year ago is missing here. There is a fair amount of medical-speak that was over my head. The author uses the book as his political platform to slam Trump, Republicans and Libertarians. Only Democrats are capable. I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters. And finally, I don’t know what th I heard the author talk about this book and really looked forward to reading it. And I really enjoyed the first part of the book. But, the gripping tension and suspense of the other pandemic book I read a year ago is missing here. There is a fair amount of medical-speak that was over my head. The author uses the book as his political platform to slam Trump, Republicans and Libertarians. Only Democrats are capable. I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters. And finally, I don’t know what the heck happened at the end. It just stopped. I’m so disappointed and turned off by the political agenda cloaked in a novel.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris Barsanti

    Another superb example of the recent crop of pandemic fiction (Lawrence Wright's "The End of October" and Val McDermid's "Resistance") that eschew Michael Crichton-esque hyperbole for closely observed scientific rigor. Shepard's story about a devastating disease that starts in a remote Greenland village before ripping through humanity shows its research well. But it is also effective for avoiding the more common world-spanning perspective and zooming in on a pair of researchers frantically fight Another superb example of the recent crop of pandemic fiction (Lawrence Wright's "The End of October" and Val McDermid's "Resistance") that eschew Michael Crichton-esque hyperbole for closely observed scientific rigor. Shepard's story about a devastating disease that starts in a remote Greenland village before ripping through humanity shows its research well. But it is also effective for avoiding the more common world-spanning perspective and zooming in on a pair of researchers frantically fighting for a cure whose friendship deepens and enriches even as the world falls to pieces around them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This was fascinating, scary, interesting, poignant, and terrifying. The whole idea of this situation happening in the world is very real and very probable. I continue to be amazed at the scientific community who continue to ask and research and hypothesize and find new ways to defend our species from the tiny things that want to kill us. I wish there had been more of an ending; I finished it and thought 'what? That's it? What happened?' Mozhan Marno was excellent on audio. I'm sure some would say This was fascinating, scary, interesting, poignant, and terrifying. The whole idea of this situation happening in the world is very real and very probable. I continue to be amazed at the scientific community who continue to ask and research and hypothesize and find new ways to defend our species from the tiny things that want to kill us. I wish there had been more of an ending; I finished it and thought 'what? That's it? What happened?' Mozhan Marno was excellent on audio. I'm sure some would say she was monotone, but I thought she was well cast for the way the story was told.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Byrne

    This was partly a story about two friendships: the first Aleq and Malik, two young boys from Greenland, and the second Denice and Jeannine, two women in different medical occupations. The larger story was that of a pandemic that seemed even worse than COVID-19, and was after it, so one hopes some lessons had been learned, but they largely had not, and the new epidemic puts everyone in the world at risk. It was hard to read this, because of what COVID-19 has done, but it shows what can happen whe This was partly a story about two friendships: the first Aleq and Malik, two young boys from Greenland, and the second Denice and Jeannine, two women in different medical occupations. The larger story was that of a pandemic that seemed even worse than COVID-19, and was after it, so one hopes some lessons had been learned, but they largely had not, and the new epidemic puts everyone in the world at risk. It was hard to read this, because of what COVID-19 has done, but it shows what can happen when history is ignored. All government officials should read this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    The first post-COVID19 novel, and as a result, either the characters or the plot are underdeveloped: the narrative keeps referring to personality traits which Mr. Shepard's heroines never display, plus, his two heroines are an epidemiologist and a physician but the difference between their disciplines becomes irrelevant by page 100. Still, Mr. Shepard is a good writer, and a second or third draft from him is still worth reading. The first post-COVID19 novel, and as a result, either the characters or the plot are underdeveloped: the narrative keeps referring to personality traits which Mr. Shepard's heroines never display, plus, his two heroines are an epidemiologist and a physician but the difference between their disciplines becomes irrelevant by page 100. Still, Mr. Shepard is a good writer, and a second or third draft from him is still worth reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    Good beginning with the description of life in a a village in Greenland that is facing upheaval. Disaster strikes and we are introduced to some CDC epidemiologists and doctors. The hospital setting with Valerie didn't quite fit in unless it was to give us an idea of what was happening in parts of the US. Aleq, the boy from Greenland, is moved to a biohazard facility along with the CDC person. What does the ending mean?????? Ah, this was frustrating. Good beginning with the description of life in a a village in Greenland that is facing upheaval. Disaster strikes and we are introduced to some CDC epidemiologists and doctors. The hospital setting with Valerie didn't quite fit in unless it was to give us an idea of what was happening in parts of the US. Aleq, the boy from Greenland, is moved to a biohazard facility along with the CDC person. What does the ending mean?????? Ah, this was frustrating.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I think this is a question of timing. I read Lawrence Wright's pandemic novel just as Covid hit and that scared me to no end. This felt flat -- almost would have been better as non-fiction. I didn't connect to the characters in any real way. The novel was a compelling read but i was disappointed that it didn't have more humanity. I might have felt more shocked or blown away if i read this a year ago maybe. I think this is a question of timing. I read Lawrence Wright's pandemic novel just as Covid hit and that scared me to no end. This felt flat -- almost would have been better as non-fiction. I didn't connect to the characters in any real way. The novel was a compelling read but i was disappointed that it didn't have more humanity. I might have felt more shocked or blown away if i read this a year ago maybe.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Brill

    So strange, eerily strange that this book about COVID-19 was written before we experienced COVID-19. Some beautiful parts - narratives about the persistence of love in the midst of horror, death and loss - some terrifying descriptions about what might be ahead for humanity...this would have read better to me as a short story. The juxtapositions of the technical language of epidemiological research and the humans involved was jarring. An important book that should serve as a warning...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Rubin

    “The WHO, which had followed its global alert with a series of travel warnings and then a series of travel bans, and then a series of situation bulletins, on day thirty-six finally ceased its foot-dragging and upped its announced pandemic level to Phase 6, its highest, designating for anyone who might have missed it by this point that a global pandemic was officially under way.” Completed before COVID-19 even emerged, this spare and gripping novel is about the next pandemic. It reads like a ficti “The WHO, which had followed its global alert with a series of travel warnings and then a series of travel bans, and then a series of situation bulletins, on day thirty-six finally ceased its foot-dragging and upped its announced pandemic level to Phase 6, its highest, designating for anyone who might have missed it by this point that a global pandemic was officially under way.” Completed before COVID-19 even emerged, this spare and gripping novel is about the next pandemic. It reads like a fictional sequel to our current crises. While not the best pandemic novel I’ve read, it is timely and an overall good read. If you’ve been vaccinated, kick back, relax, remove your mask and enjoy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I review Phase Six in The Brooklyn Rail "A tightly-written, well-researched, and suspenseful novel, Phase Six is set about five years after COVID-19. The story begins on the western coast of Greenland in the Disko Bay area during a burial in a village called Ilimanaq, where people are dying from an unknown virus or bacteria—no one is quite sure." https://brooklynrail.org/2021/06/book...? I review Phase Six in The Brooklyn Rail "A tightly-written, well-researched, and suspenseful novel, Phase Six is set about five years after COVID-19. The story begins on the western coast of Greenland in the Disko Bay area during a burial in a village called Ilimanaq, where people are dying from an unknown virus or bacteria—no one is quite sure." https://brooklynrail.org/2021/06/book...?

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